Last week we made one of our occasional forays into Chitre to retrieve our mail. Every couple of weeks I call the US to verbally go through the stack of mail that’s arrived for us. I decide what to shred, what to trash and what to forward, and it gets sent to a forwarding address in Miami.
From there, it travels to Panama where it spends some time in customs. Ultimately it arrives at the Mailboxes, Etc. store where we have an account.
Depending on all sorts of variables, it means we receive our important US mail anywhere from two to four weeks late.
Normally this isn’t a problem, as I converted everything I possibly could to electronic delivery before we moved.
This time, well, it was enough to send my husband running for cover.
Because, when we opened the manila envelope, out popped a Jury Summons from the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.
I hadn’t expected it — I’d only been told there was a letter that “looked important” from Orange County.
The instructions informed my husband that, if he needed to be excused from jury duty, he had to return the attached card at least 10 days before the date he was scheduled to report.
It was already only nine days before the summons date. That’s when he started hyperventilating.
I reminded him that our daughter had received a jury summons a while ago, but she simply notified them she would be away at college and was excused. “There has to be a website,” I reminded him.
We found the website URL and completed the proper form.
Heart attack averted.
But I’ve never been one to resist temptation very strongly. “This is why you should have changed your voter registration already,” I reminded him smugly.
His response wasn’t encouraging — I hadn’t really expected it would be.
There are a couple of takeaways here, if you’re getting ready to make your overseas move.
Figure Out a Way to Receive Your Mail Overseas
At least for the first year, set up a system for receiving your important mail overseas. I don’t care how well organized you are, something is going to fall through the cracks, or some situation from the past will rear its ugly head when you least expect it.
If you’re getting your mail, you may receive it or respond to it late, but at least you’ll stay in the loop.
There are services that will receive, scan and email your mail to you. There are other services that will forward the physical mail. Perhaps you can forward all your mail to a trusted friend or family member who’ll send the important pieces on to you.
After the first year, you may decide it’s no longer necessary. But cover yourself for at least the first 12 months.
Update your Voter Registration
In the US, it’s important for more than voting, although I believe you should be exercising that right. As my husband’s jury summons demonstrated, voting privileges tie into other rights and responsibilities.
If you’re a US citizen and you want to register to vote abroad, you can take care of a big piece of it online.
Vote From Abroad is a nonpartisan website that will walk you through the process of updating your voter registration and requesting an absentee ballot.
It’s pretty straightforward. You answer some questions online, download a form (or email it to yourself) and sign and mail it.
If you’re a citizen of the UK, visit About My Vote for similar help.
Kiwis can follow instructions on the Elections New Zealand website.
If you’re from another country, just search for “how do I vote overseas” and the name of your country to find the relevant site.
Do it now, because when you fly home to visit family and friends you really don’t want to find yourself facing situations you didn’t know about.