Sending Documents Home And Back

mly0197l1.jpgSituation: you have to send off some documents to an office in your own country (maybe to get your Certificate of No Criminal Record), and you are already overseas. You need them sent back. The office you’re sending them to isn’t going to pay to ship something overseas. What to do?

One option: Return envelope
If you use, say, FedEx, you can get a return envelope which you send along with your documents. The office process your papers then sticks everything in that return envelope and sends it off. You are billed at the end of it all by credit card. Presumably this involves getting an account with Fed Ex, which needs to be done at least 24 hours in advance (before you send the document).

My experience left me skeptical:

A few years ago, I sent a document and a return envelope to the US from one country in Europe. Somehow the local company (“the local agent”) used its own account and they just sent me a bill – to be paid in cash – at the end, after I had received the return document. The problem was that, because I was abroad and paying for something to be sent from US to me, it cost about twice what it would have if I had been in the US and sending something along the very same route. The only difference was my geographic location – even the direction of travel was the same for the document – but it cost more on one end. Had I not requested the return envelope from the start, and just called and said I was in the US and paying with my US credit card, the situation could have been avoided.

This doesn’t make sense but it was the system there at least, or with that agent; apparently the person I asked about the fee before sending the document didn’t really know and was trying to help but gave me incorrect information. Luckily I didn’t have to pay the extra charge, but this all took ages to sort out by phone.

The point here: ask a lot of questions about your options (an account with the company, a return envelope, other alternatives, the rates, when and how you pay, etc) and contact different companies in both the starting and ending countries – I’d also try to get something about price and delivery date in writing (in email or on a specific web page) if you are spending a lot.

Another option: have the office in question send your documents to a competent person in the same country who will then send it back to you. You have to wait on the local mail, but this very often ends up being simpler and cheaper, if a bit slower.