This is a basic question about mail delivery which has been vexing me, and for which I can find no good answer. Before marking this off-topic please note that this is likely not a problem I would be having if I were not living overseas (in France, specifically, though the question is more general).

I need to send some documents back to the US from France in order to receive an apostille from the State of Louisiana. Along with this I need to send a pre-paid envelope for return service. What's troubling me is how I should go about this. Can I just include an envelope with French postage on it? Will the US mail service mail a parcel paid for with French postage? And if so how does that work?

In the past when I've needed return service domestically I've just sent a pre-printed label via FedEx, but FedEx from France to the US is prohibitively expensive. I just don't know how to do this otherwise.

  • 2
    A common solution in such cases is to send an international reply coupon (which in France can be purchased online from La Poste, or in a post office if you are lucky), but you should confirm with the recipient that they will accept it.
    – fkraiem
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:05
  • @fkraiem that should be an answer.
    – phoog
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:06
  • @phoog I am not sure because the question specifically asks for a "pre-paid envelope", it's possible that the recipient will not take an IRC.
    – fkraiem
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:10
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    Do you have any family/friends in the USA still? If so, you could always post the letter to them, and wire them the money for US-domestic postage plus US-to-France postage. Then, have them go to the post office and get the stamps + forward it on
    – Gagravarr
    Mar 22, 2016 at 21:28
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    Just as a followup, I ended up mailing the documents to a family member in the states, and had them purchase the return postage for me and send it on to the State Department. That worked fine and was simple, if not a bid round-about.
    – Iguananaut
    Nov 29, 2016 at 21:48

3 Answers 3


The common solution to the general problem of how to send mail to a recipient in a foreign country and pay for them to send it back to you is the International Reply Coupon, which is overseen by the Universal Postal Union (of which France and the United States are both members). From Wikipedia:

An international reply coupon (IRC) is a coupon that can be exchanged for one or more postage stamps representing the minimum postage for an unregistered priority airmail letter of up to twenty grams sent to another Universal Postal Union (UPU) member country. IRCs are accepted by all UPU member countries.

UPU member postal services are obliged to exchange an IRC for postage, but are not obliged to sell them.

The purpose of the IRC is to allow a person to send someone in another country a letter, along with the cost of postage for a reply. If the addressee is within the same country, there is no need for an IRC because a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or return postcard will suffice; but if the addressee is in another country an IRC removes the necessity of acquiring foreign postage or sending appropriate currency.

In France, IRCs can be purchased online from La Poste for 1,30 euros plus shipping (search for "coupon-réponse international"). You can also try to ask at a post office, but in my experience it is likely that they won't even know what it is.

In this case, looking at the provided link it is unclear whether the recipient will accept an IRC as postage; in general one should always confirm this with the recipient beforehand since the recipient still has to exchange the IRC for actual stamps.

  • Thanks for the writeup--I did run across these IRCs in the course of my Googling, but it wasn't very clear whether or not they would be accepted in the United States. At one point I was looking at a list of UPU member countries, and the United States was not listed (odd, but wouldn't be the first the US was unnecessarily difficult). But no, it's listed here: upu.int/en/the-upu/member-countries.html#u I will have to ask the recipient if they'll accept this. If they don't then I'm once again at a loss but this still answers my question nonetheless.
    – Iguananaut
    Mar 23, 2016 at 8:03
  • Note that the IRC is only good for an "unregistered priority airmail letter upto 20g" (my emphasis). Depending on what the OP is having posted back, that might not be enough (a single sheet of normal 80gsm A4 paper weights 5g, and a stout envelope could easily blow the limit). Dec 21, 2018 at 11:40

In amateur radio we are often wanting to cover a foreign station's postal costs to send us a contact card (QSL card). The usual solution is to send a couple or three American dollar bills, as most people in most countries can convert this to local currency fairly easily.

  • That works fine for cooperative individuals. However the OP is dealing with a local bureaucracy which is less likely to be prepared to pop out to the post office and buy stamps with the dollars. (But a good answer for other people in future). Dec 21, 2018 at 11:44
  • @MartinBonner The solution in that case will be to send euro banknotes with the request. Unfortunately, the smallest euro banknote is a 5. (Sending 1- and 2-euro coins will probably be cost-prohibitive due to their mass.) Dec 21, 2018 at 15:05

Not sure of France. In Asia I use To Go. I have a account with them. So ship documents to the U.S. There they use Fed Ex. Fed Ex. returns it to To Go. A round trip letter is around U.S. $140. Home delivered. So yes it cost. U.S. post office is $30. One way out of America. To me. If sent that way. Can you E mail documents. Much Cheaper.

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