Why Is It So Hard to Verify International Addresses?
by Jillian Voege
It's a tough business to verify addresses, even if it doesn't look like it at face value.
There's the assumption that countries across the world maintain pristine databases that account for every single address within their borders. All a company has to do is connect to these databases (which, as API people, we know is much easier said than done), and cross-reference the address entered into their system with the addresses in the database. That's how it should work, right?
The truth is much more complicated, which makes address verification a complicated matter.
To illustrate the convoluted nature of verifying addresses, let's take a count of the number of countries that can offer street level verification data for their addresses. Of the 196 countries in the world, only 50 of them maintain street-level address verification (the U.S. being one of them, as you may already know). That means that 146 countries don't even verify at the street level, meaning a package with a street-level error would very possibly be undeliverable, maybe even misplaced to the wrong address.
Then there's the issue of address formatting. The U.S. keeps things simple, with three formats of addresses (one for P.O. boxes, one for APO/FPO addresses, and one for everybody else). For the vast majority of U.S. addresses, there may be some wiggle room in the formatting (i.e. unit numbers), but it's essentially uniform for the most part - address number, street name, city, state, and zip code. Simple.
Then take a country like China. They have different formats for rural and urban addresses, and different standards within all of their formats. It's much more difficult to built structured verification around a system that has so many acceptable variables.
On top of that, different countries maintain different standards of data when it comes to their address databases. Poland's postal service may not update their address databases as often as the USPS, which means a Polish AVS request might come back as undeliverable when it's actually the opposite.
As you can see, it's a headache and a half to verify international addresses, which is why it costs so much to do so.
Here at EasyPost, we approach the problem a different way. For instance, we don't solely rely on international postal services to backstop our international AVS, we also use technology to log bad address types and formats to refine our system. Like any good international AVS provider, we stay up-to-date with every country's address database. But in order to provide the best international address verification out there, we take extra steps and leverage creative solutions to ensure your packages get delivered to the right address, no matter where it is in the world or how hard it is to verify.