Setting up an international phone number with a call-forwarding system is a good start toward establishing yourself as global business — without actually having a physical presence in your market country. But no matter how far technology pushes us toward becoming a fully digitally society, businesses still need to receive physical mail at an actual address. Establishing a mailing address in a foreign country without actually owning or leasing a building there poses a bigger challenge than getting a phone number. But you do have several options.

 

Virtual Offices and Mail Drop

 

One way to establish a mailing address without actually occupying a building at a physical location is to enlist the services of a virtual office. Virtual global offices allow your office to be wherever you are. Aside from computer access, voicemail, live answering, fax and phone services, many virtual office companies also provide customers with mail-drop services.

 

With mail drop, virtual office providers use the physical address of a partner facility — the more prestigious the address, the better (if your address were in the U.S., for example, Park Avenue in New York City would suffice). On your business cards, on your stationary and in your ads, you list that address as your business’s mailing address. When mail for you arrives, your virtual office provider will forward it to you. Many virtual office providers issue international mail-drop services with six-month or one-year contracts, which are often billed in euro.

 

CMRAs

 

Commercial mail receiving agents, or CMRAs, will also rent the use of an established building’s address and infrastructure to businesses and individuals who want an address overseas without actually owning or leasing a building there. Like mail drop, the goal of a CMRA is not only to have an address, but as prestigious an address as possible.

 

But there are other benefits to CMRAs. According to RS Associates, an organization that represents the retail shipping industry, “A CMRA is able to receive parcels shipped by means other than a postal system; some postal operators, such as the United States Postal Service, are not. CMRAs also usually provide ancillary services such as copy or courier services.”

 

P.O. Boxes

 

Many countries, such as the UK, have national postal services that offer post office boxes, or P.O. boxes, just like in the Unites States. P.O. boxes are physically located at a satellite office of that country’s postal system. You’ll be assigned your own private, locked mailbox, which you can visit any time during business hours if you or a surrogate happen to be in the country. Most P.O. box services come with options (which, of course, cost more) such as the ability to email when a parcel is received, or home delivery.

 

P.O. boxes are easy and nearly universal (in some developing countries where there is no door-to-door mail delivery, they’re the only option), but they don’t come without their drawbacks. Since many shady, fly-by-night companies establish them to keep their operation anonymous, P.O. boxes don’t have the prestige associated with a physical address. Also, packages often can’t be sent to P.O. boxes and some shipping companies and courier services don’t deliver to them at all.

 

P.O. boxes are a familiar, but limited option to giving your business a physical home overseas. No matter which option you choose, an actual address backed by a reliable forwarding service is your international business’s lifeline to your operations back home.