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For the lines above the city line, each country has its own standards, which are beyond the scope of this document (consult the postal authority websties of each country for details).
For the purposes of international mail, the main thing is to get the country and city lines right so the mail is sent to appropriate country and city, where the local postal system will deal with the rest of the address.
Postal codes, in countries that have them, are usually numeric, sometimes containing a space or a hyphen.
Most European postal codes have an alphabetic prefix, denoting the country, separated by a hyphen (such as DK-1234 in Denmark).
General information and corrections: Linda Beek, Dan Olsson, Peter Russell, Ken Westmoreland, Gert Grenander, Marcy Strawmyer, Mark Brader.
Breathnach, Michael Everson, Mark Dyche, David Gowdy, Guy Burgess, Alan Berry, Ken Westmoreland, Jonathan Nigel, Peter Reynolds, Martin Spamer, Chris Davies, Benjamin Brundell, Mark Jolly, Liam Mc Gee, William Wallace, Andy Paterson, Sarah Woodhouse, Mark Brader.
John Klensin, Alexander Svensson, Alex Bochannek (Germany). The 14 November 2000 edition adds links to postal authorities in many countries, which are recapitulated alphabetically (in English) in APPENDIX II at the end. Periodic updates of any postal reference are necessary because countries change, provinces within countries change, postal codes change, addressing standards and recommendations change.
Postal codes never go on the country line (Authority: USPS National ZIP Code Directory, "International Addresses").
When sending international mail: The Country Line must be understandable by the USPS.
Therefore, use the English name of the country (Appendix II), not the local name, e.g. To be more precise, use the same name the USPS uses for the country in the IMM, e.g. The USPS IMM names are usually the common English names, but not always (for example, the USPS lists CÔTE D'IVOIRE, but not IVORY COAST).
Thus any document like this is doomed to decay over time if it's not constantly maintained. Feel free to report stale links, or send corrections, suggestions, or new information, by e-mail to This document tries to describe -- or invent when necessary -- conventions for addressing postal mail from within the USA to other countries that are both (a) effective (i.e.
have a good chance of working), and (b) as inoffensive as possible when addressing choices might be controversial.
This included standard or recommended names for countries.