Periodicals: Understanding and Applying for USPS™ Periodical Mailing Privileges


This blog is to provide a comprehensive overview of the USPS Periodical Mailing Rate class. As succinctly as possible, it will help you understand questions such as the following:

For purposes of general usefulness and efficiency, this review will ignore outlier periodical-rate filing options such as filing for “Science-as-Agriculture” applications, News Agency applications and large scale commercial presentments which require palletization.  That’s probably not why you’re here.  You’re likely here because most of the online USPS information is patently out-of-date; and, there is no concise online write-up from anyone who actually knows what he/she is doing regarding the application for, and handling of, periodical publications.  (As we often jokingly say in our office, the last place you go for postal knowledge is the postal service.)

Our focus below is to stick with the highly likely and conventional application scenarios that likely pertain to most organizations like you.  This write-up therefore is a combination of postal knowledge as well as practical experience in dealing with periodical mailings.  Although Cornerstone Services, Inc. is not allowed to apply for Periodical Rates on your behalf, the distilled information below, updated for 2024, has been well reviewed and should be all you need.

Overall, the application process to fill out PS Form 3500 is mildly complicated and so is the mailing process with the PS 3541 paperwork necessary to present each periodical mailing (9 pages + instructions).  It is our strong recommendation that if you apply for, and successfully receive, periodical mailing rate privileges, you consider hiring a mailing service like Cornerstone Services, Inc. to assist you at least to start.

What are “Periodicals” as defined by the US Postal Service?

“Periodicals” is actually a class of USPS™ mail designated for qualified, subscriber-requested publications. These publications are printed and distributed monthly or quarterly (i.e. “periodically”, hence the name) and tend to be either newspapers or magazines.  Additional, important qualifications are detailed below.

Why Mail at Periodical Rates?


Highly Discounted Postage for Commercial and Non-Profit Organizations: US Postal Service™ Periodical Rates are perhaps the best deal in postage rates possible from the USPS given the enhanced postal delivery service.  The postage rates are generated by an unusual compilation of:  “in county” and “out-of-county” address destination determination, address concentration (esp. Where you have qualifying 3-digit and 5-digit concentration), advertising + non-advertising percentages, number of bundles, mailpiece weight, automation address quality, among other factors.

Example:  using a typical commercial (for-profit) magazine, with 64-pages sized 8 ½” x 11”, as of 2024, we might see per piece postage rates as low as around 50 cents per issue for 5-digit ZIP Code concentration and over national rates around 75 cents for general delivery (with some significant local delivery.   For a qualifying non-profit publication, you might see similar and corresponding (but USPS™ non-profit qualified) not-for-profit rates between 30 cents and 50 cents.  For more information on this exceptionally complicated rate structure, you are welcome to visit Page 27 of the USPS™ Notice 123 for reference

Exceptional Mail Delivery Speed & Handling:   Even though the USPS guarantees deliverability for no class of mail except that of Express Mail™, Periodical rate mail moves at an expedited speed via a unique “News” classification (with accompanying pink sack tags to help postal workers ID importance of mail sack contents). The publication content is assumed to be time sensitive [think: “newspapers”]; therefore, content is deemed to be subject to aging and the value of the publication if handled faster than that of Marketing Mail. As a benchmark, we sometimes see Periodical Rate mail move as fast as Priority Rate mail.

No Annual Fee:   Aside from the initial and hefty application charge, presently $950.00 (as of Jan. 2024, source, Page 34 of the USPS™ Notice 123) there are no per annum charges.  Compared with the $320 charge per annum of Marketing Mail or First-Class Mail permits, over time, there should be a net savings for periodical rate mailings.


$950.00 Upfront Application Fee.  Albeit, this is a one-time charge, it is still a major impediment even to consider mailing under periodical rates. And, it’s non-refundable even if in rare circumstances your application is declined.

Administrative Record Keeping.  You must be able to prove, upon request, that at least 50% of your periodical mailing list represents either paid subscribers, or, direct recipient-requested subscribers. These have to be maintained (at your “K.O.P.” or Known Office of Publication, see below) and available for postal review.  Publications must also summarize circulation data for an annual statement of ownership.  Additionally, you must file postal reports each year by October reporting on the printing/mailings that you did in the prior 12 months.

Advertising Content Detailed with Every Issue.   With every periodical mailing we present for our clients, we (Cornerstone Services, Inc.) are required to present a marked up sample copy of each publication that details the percentage of advertising (supplied by you, the “Publisher”). Along with page-over-page Sharpie™ (in red) mark-up of how the advertising is distributed.

Limitations on Some Advertising.  The USPS does have some restrictions on advertising content, so it’s not just a matter of not exceeding certain levels of advertising. Simply, you are not 100% free to be creative or experiment or offer opportunistic promotions (e.g. an advertising coupon card insert, an offer to subscribe to a “sister publication”, etc.) to potential advertisers based upon their preferences.

Complicated Rate Structure Without professional level software from a Provider like Cornerstone Services to support the various rate tiers, you might want to use MS Excel or some other electronic spreadsheet platform to model the rates prior to filling out the Periodical Rate Postage Statement, the PS Form 3541.  Your net postage rate is a reflection of many factors, than can change month-over-month (e.g. mail piece size, data quality, in-county addresses vs. out-of-county addresses, per-piece weight, inserts or supplements, advertising percentage, number of addresses, number of pages, etc.).  It is rare for publishers to fill out postage statements without investing in qualifying software (an additional expense) or without third party assistance.

Periodic USPS Auditing.  Reviews are very rare, but could be random or scheduled if your numbers look funny or, more likely, you forget to file your annual PS 3526. Failing a USPS review may mean the temporary or permanent revocation of eligibility, so it behooves a Publisher to prevent  audits mostly by not fudging the rules or forgetting to file annual reporting.

What are the Eligibility Qualifications to Apply for Periodical Rates?

Here is a basic checklist to see if your publication is even eligible for periodical rates.  If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you could well consider applying for periodical postage rates:

❏  Is your publication printed matter?
❏  Is the intent of your publication to transmit “information” (i.e. not just be a vehicle for advertising)?
❏  Is your publication printed on a scheduled basis at least four (4) times a year indefinitely?
❏  Will or does your publication have less than 75% advertising
❏  Can you confirm honestly that your publication is not just a commercial front (technically “an auxiliary” for a business) with advertising intent?
❏  Is there continuity issue-over-issue (examples: Same title publication, same thematic content, same publisher? Same price?)
❏  Are you able to demonstrate each of your publication’s subscriber requests in detail? (See below for specifics on this.)
❏  Can you state that you have an office location somewhere (technically “a known office of publication where normal business of the publication is conducted during normal posted business hours”)?
❏  Do you have at least 100 qualified subscription requesters (i.e. individuals who have specifically requested to subscribe to your publication)?
❏  Do you have samples of your periodical publication to provide to the USPS? (it really helps speed the approval process if, let’s say, you have been mailing your publication at Marketing Mail rates and already have live samples to submit.)
❏   Are you sure you want to pay a one-time application fee of $950.00 (as of January 2024). 

NOTE:  Good news here – after you apply, there are no additional charges assuming you also file your annual (and required PS 3526 (“Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation (All Periodicals Publications Except Requester Publications)”) or the PS 3526-R (“Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation (Requester Publications Only)”.

How Do I Apply for Periodical Rates?

This next step is to go line-by-line with the USPS PS 3500 “Application for Periodicals Mailing Privileges” found here:  This document was last updated in 2014 by the USPS™, so we will be providing some updated information because the technology, even in the mailing world, has changed fairly dramatically in 10 years.

You may also wish to review some other resources by the USPS™ pertaining to periodicals.  We do not find these aids particularly easy to use, and may even be out of date, but they may also assist in your review:

We’ll now go line by line of the PS 3500 application to help you apply:

Periodical Filing Status

So let’s explore what these Types of Publications mean; to get into specific detail, here’s the link to the USPS DMM 207.6 for further reference.  You need to select the correct type of publication in order to know which parts of the PS 3500 you should fill out. 

❏  General PublicationThis is the box that the vast majority of applicants will check; therefore, you should probably just check this one as well.  It is for subscriber-based publications that – along with other periodical prerequisites – publish information “devoted to literature, the sciences, art, or some special industry.”  Here are sentient points paraphrased from the DMM® PostalspeakTM into normal English, you will also need to affirm the following if you check “General Publication”:

  •  You have genuine paid subscribers; that is, you’re not just giving subscriptions away for next-to-nothing, specifically, individuals paid no less than 30% off the stated retail price. [Good news: subscriptions may be paid for with dues or contributions, so long as this is clear on an application or donation/sign-up form.]
  • You promise to keep auditable subscription records for all subscribers for at least 3 years.  Additionally subscriptions must be clearly separated from other transactions and you must be able to show that paid subscriptions were voluntary and payment was received or promised.
  • At least half 50% of your mailing list must be comprised of honest-to-goodness, real live paid subscribers.  [Good News: this implies that you can mix your mailing list with 50% non-subscribers if you’re trying to push new subscribers!] 

❏  Requester PublicationThis category is occasionally, but rarely, selected by certain types membership organizations.  It is highly unlikely you will be checking this box.  However, if your publication is available automatically with a paid membership, then this could apply to your application.

Restated, to be clear, you would need a large list of people who will – perhaps indirectly through membership affiliation – “request publications on a regular basis.  An example would be a national automobile club that automatically sends out magazines to its members, but the fine print references that membership constitutes a de facto “request” for the periodical.   Another example might be certain types of local newspapers where people call to get on demand subscriptions re-issues.  Again, such scenarios in 21st Century America are increasingly rare.

Other qualifications for checking the “Requester Publication” box; your “pub” has:

  • At least 24 pages with each issue.
  • No more than 75% advertising in more than 25% of the issues over a 12-month
  •  period.
  • At least half 50% of your mailing list must be 100%, Scout’s Honor, legitimate paid subscribers.  [Good News: by implication, you can mix your mailing list with 50% non-subscribers if you’re trying to push new subscribers!] 
  • Solid bookkeeping (i.e. very auditable) subscription records for all subscribers for at least 3 years; subscriptions must be clearly separated from other transactions and you must be able to show that paid subscriptions were voluntary and payment was received or promised.
  • A formal board resolution by your membership organization stating that each organization member receives a copy of each issue. “Records must be kept to show that the publication is sent to members. Form 3500 must be accompanied by a copy of the resolution and written assurance that the required records are kept.”
  • A tally of electronic subscriptions which can count toward your total list of paid subscribers!  “At least 40% of the total circulation of each issue must consist of printed copies distributed to paying subscribers or requesters.” 

Finally, here’s a link to the USPS regarding a Customer Support Ruling (as of May 2015) which might assist in further clarifying the subject, and, which should help you determine which form to file: Of course, the local USPS BMEU (Bulk Mail Entry Unit) is your best bet for guidance.

❏  Publication of State Department of Agriculture:  As it sounds, if you are filing on behalf of a United States state, then check this box.  (The odds are that most of the individual states, had they wanted to do so, have already done so.)

  News Agents:  The term “News Agent” pertains to someone “…selling two or more Periodicals publications published by more than one publisher. A news agent must be authorized by the USPS before the agent may mail publications at Periodicals prices.”  Once again, this is not likely to be most people here, but this is a thinly used and appropriate option for some organizations.

❏  Foreign Publication:  The definition is self-explanatory here.  And, Cornerstone has had some clients check this box!  Woo-hoo!  If you are publishing a newspaper, magazine or similar qualifying publication outside the United States, then you would check this box.  The USPS will actually allow you to send the publication at commercial (not non-profit) periodical mailing rates.  Here are other provisions outside the basic requirements:

  • It is acceptable to have your “known office of publication may be the office of the publisher’s agent.”
  • Regarding prices, include US dollar denominations to avoid any USPS audit issues with your application or publication.
  • Foreign subscribers don’t count toward your overall and unique, individual subscriber counts – subscribers must be based only in the US and its territories.
  • If the publication is in a foreign language, you should provide a brief translation of its contents as well as a one paragraph summary of the purpose of the publication.

❏  Publication of Institutions and Societies With General AdvertisingThis is, once again a very rare box to check.  You might check this box for certain types of non-profit organizations, especially state departments or agencies.  For example, if your publication contains only the publisher’s own advertising (promotional material) and not, under any condition, the advertising of other persons or organizations, then it is eligible for Periodicals mailing privileges further assuming your periodical publication is one of the following:

  • is published by (a) an established US incorporated educational institution “supported in whole or in part by public taxation” or (b) a public or nonprofit private elementary or secondary school; or
  • is a bulletin issued by a state agency publication (e.g. board of health, economic development agency (EDA), conservation or fish and game department, board of corrections or any other state department or agency); or 
  • a state communications (radio/television) regular public program announcement, listing or guide; or
  • “a benevolent or fraternal society or order organized under the lodge system and having a bona fide membership of at least 1,000 persons”; or
  • a trade union; or
  • a “strictly professional society, that is, a group consisting solely of persons who have obtained professional status by advanced educational training, experience, specialized interest, or peer examination”; or
  • a strictly literary, historical or scientific society (e.g. groups that study Shakespeare, Zen poetry, the American Civil War, Stoic Philosophy, Physics of combustion or erosion or global warming, Astronomy, etc.); or, 
  • a church (with regular services), church organization or association or churches.

Request for Permission to Mail at Special Periodicals Rates:  [NOTE:   for purposes of this blog, we’re not going to get into this section.  As one seasoned USPS Periodicals Specialist told us, “in 25 years, I have not once ever had someone check this box.”] 

PS 3500 – PART A

If you are filling out PART A of the PS 3500, for your convenience, here are the categories.  We’re only going to add comments where it seems helpful to do so, or, where something is not entirely obvious.

  1. Title of Publication as Shown on Publication 
  2. Name of Publisher (Agent for Foreign Publication)
  3. ISSN (If already assigned) [NOTE:  The ISSN is an “International Standard Serial Number”, of 8 numeric digits, used to identify recurring periodical publications such as newspapers, magazines, guides, journals, newsletters and even electronic-only media periodicals. You have two options here:  (1)  you may leave this blank.  Part of your application fee goes for the Post Office to assign you an ISSN automatically. (Accept the gift!) Or, (2) if you really want to get this number in advance, you will you may try, on your own, requesting an ISSN here for your publication here:
  4. Frequency of Issue (Be specific. For example, “weekly,” “monthly except June”) 
  5. Number of Issues Published Annually 
  6. Basic Annual Subscription Price
  7. Full Name of Owner (Individual, partnership, or corporation) 
  8. Complete address of Known Office of Publication, including county. For foreign publications, agent’s address (not a Post Office™ box address)  [NOTE:  in PostalSpeak, the Known Office of Publication is called the “K.O.P.”  This needs to be a physical address where, in theory and in practice, you, as “Publisher”, have all your records kept.  We literally have had people put down friend’s apartments for this, but whatever you do, do NOT put down a PO Box here!  Your application could be rejected, or more likely held for further questions, if you include a PO Box for your primary address!]
  9. If owned by a corporation, list the names of all stockholders owning or holding 1 percent or more of the total stock. (Attach a separate sheet if necessary)
  10. Are any of the owners or stockholders interested financially in any business or trade represented by the publication? (Check one) YES/NO.  Yes If [your] response is “Yes,” explain the interest.
  11. Do any of the persons or concerns that advertise in the publication have any interest therein? (Check one) YES/NO  If [your] response is “Yes,” explain the interest.
  12. Is more than one copy of each issue furnished to any one advertiser therein? (Check one) YES/NO.  If [your] response is “Yes,” how many copies are furnished and what are the reasons.
  13. Date of issue on which application is based. (Usually issue published closest to date of filing)  [NOTE:  this is Postalspeak again for “when you think you might be doing or planning your first mailing?”.  It’s OK to be approximate with the start date.]
  14. Total Number of Copies Printed (For foreign publications, number of copies imported into United States) [NOTE:  you may be asked what is done with the unmailed copies; if needed and if you are sending your mailing through CRST/Cornerstone, we can issue you a letter which states that residual periodical copies (unmailed copied) will be recycled and will not re-enter the US mailstream after the periodical mailing.  You might want residual copies to have around the office or give out at a trade show.  Just state what is the difference between what you got printed, and, what you mailed out.  There’s something called a “Printer’s Notice” or Printer’s invoice; that is the invoice from the printer which states what you ordered and how much it cost – just attach that to your application along with the explanation for how the non-mailed copies will be handled.]
  15. Contact’s Name 
  16. Contact’s Address 
  17. Contact’s Telephone Number
  18. Signature of Publisher (or Agent for Foreign Publication)
  19. Date Signed

PS 3500 – PART B

Now, you are on the other side of the mountain with the application process and you’re going down hill.  “Part B” is simple math.   This should be encouraging.  We asked one postal Periodicals Specialist what is the most important part here, and we were told “Boxes 1, 2 and 3 should equal 10.”  Basically, get a calculator and make sure your math is correct.  There are no tricks or secrets here.  The math is the math.  If you are wondering what is meant in 15. for “Total Copies Distributed”, it translates as “Total Copies Mailed”.

PS 3500 – PART C & PART D

Part C is usually used for a “New Launch” when you have not previously mailed a specific publication.  “This is rare” according to a Periodicals Specialist, but “little explanation should be needed or required to fill out the rest of Section C.  “Mostly, just do the math” we were told.  

Part D, given comments above, is exceptionally rare to fill out, but is thought to be straightforward enough not to require much commentary (thankfully).


As stated, you will submit your application to the regional BMEU and you may either mail or deliver your application.  Here is what you will need to do to file:

(A) Make three (3) complete copies of your application.  One copy you will keep for your records, one copy will stay with the BMEU clerk you receives your application, and, one copy will be sent to the PCSC (Pricing and Classifications Service Center) either in New York City or elsewhere. 

(B) Check that you have a  completed & signed PS Form 3500.  Again, it is most likely that you checked the first box under filing status for “General” filing.  If you checked “General”, then be sure that you filled out both Sections A & B on the application.  Also important is ensuring that all your attachment documentation is correct.  You might want to have a cover letter detailing what is included with your application.  Finally, it is our strong suggestion that you include a detailed and very organized list of all subscribers, even if your total subscriber base is in the thousands.  The USPS Periodicals Specialists with whom we consulted all said the same thing:  “You want a quick approval?  Over-document your 3500.”

(C) Include two (2) copies of the existing publication and mark-up advertising content. It is suggested that you “indicate on the cover both the total units (e.g., column inches, square inches, pages) and the percentage of advertising and non-advertising.” 

(D) Write a $950 application fee.  Personal or business check is fine.  This fee is nonrefundable, but may also be paid by credit card if necessary.  Make a copy of the check (recommended) before you submit your application.

What to Do With Your Completed PS 3500 Application

You want to take your completed 3500 application, with all hardcopy attachments, and deliver (or mail) it to the BMEU (Business Mail Entry Unit) where you intend to do your mailings.  It is important to know that many “Associate BMEUs” (non major BMEUs) do not have the understanding of Periodical rate mailings and might possibly not handle your application quickly.  We have been told by postal employees inside the USPS, that “the bigger the BMEU, the better.”  If you are mailing with Cornerstone Services, Inc., then you would reach the Newburgh NY BMEU here:

USPS Stewart Airport S&DC
Attn:  Business Mail Entry Unit
99 Enterprise Drive
Newburgh, NY 12550
BMEU Window Tel: (845) 567-2331
General Tel: (845) 567-2314

[NOTE:  The USPS will guide you to use the BMEU Finder from their ProstalPro website.  The problem is that it does not work – it is an incomplete list and misses most of the U.S. BMEUs.  Why does the USPS have it then?  No clue… but here it is for reference:

Annual Filing Requirements for Preserving Your Periodical Account Privileges

By October 1st of each year, you will need to file the PS 3526 (this applies to 99% for most of you) or the PS 3526 or the PS 3526-R.  Don’t screw this up!  Typically the BMEU clerk with whom you set up your periodicals account would also accept the PS 3526 form filing each year.  It’s OK to mail it in.  Total subscription levels may be calculated through the filing of a PS 3256 worksheet.

[NOTE:  Perhaps of help when filing, in 2012 to the relief of many publishers, (and perhaps in response to the acknowledgement of our internet-based era), the Postal Service™ allowed publishers to count (claim) electronic subscriptions towards total periodical counts assuming 50% or more of distributed print and electronic copies are actually paid subscriptions (technically reading “paid above a nominal price”).]

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there any restrictions on what the Postal Service means by “Information” inside the Periodical publication?

Thankfully, the USPS seems to be forgiving here; in their own definition about eligible content they state that “content of the periodical may consist of original or reprinted articles on one topic or many topics, listings, photographs, illustrations, graphs, a combination of advertising and non-advertising matter, comic strips, legal notices, editorial material, cartoons, or other subject matter.”  All this means is that your publication can’t just be an advertising catalog or the like just because it’s printed and mailed regularly.  In the past, organizations would misuse the periodicals class for things like showroom catalogs or seasonal fashion advertising.  Magazines like Cosmopolitan or Conde Nast Traveler make certain that they don’t go over 75% advertising content to ensure to preserve their periodicals class mailing privileges.

Do I really need to include a listing of all my subscribers?
That’s our strong recommendation.  You’re going to get asked, so you should just do it.  One Periodicals Rate Specialist said if you have a large number of subscribers, “even if it’s a list of 10,000+”, use an Avery label 30-Up Template in MS Word and merge the names – in either ZIP Code or Last Name order – into a single *.pdf (and print it).  The person reviewing your application will probably “just pick 10 names” and then ask you to show documentation for the subscription.  Documentation could be as simple as an on-line payment or copy of a canceled check with a return, sign-up form.  The idea is that you need to demonstrate that you’re organized and that the USPS doesn’t have to worry about you.  Similarly, if you are a small organization – with perhaps only 100ct subscribers – we have recommended that you just make copies of all subscription information for each subscriber and include that with your application.  You want to show transparency and goodwill, and, it should help smooth the application process.

What do I need to know about set-up on the inside and outside of my periodical magazine or newsletter flat?
On the outside, you need to make sure that your organization name and the publication title appears clearly issue-over-issue.  For mailing, unless you are not using polywrap, we’re going to ask you to leave a white box sized 1.5” x 4” at the bottom left of the magazine cover so that we, as your mailing agent, may inkjet the subscriber’s name/address onto each issue.  Inside, you will need to list the “brick and mortar” head office location along with contact and subscription information as cited above.  There’s no postal permit indicia printed on the outside of the issue. One way to make this work is to look at other qualifying periodicals and simply mimic what you see. Of course, the USPS should review your intended design prior to printing.

What are the Periodical Weight Requirements:   If you are using the IMb (Intelligent Mail™ barcode), as is required for all periodical or non-periodical mailings at Cornerstone, then each publication issue may not weigh more than 20 ounces. (If your mailpiece is being sent via non-barcode presort, although Cornerstone Services, Inc. cannot help you with mail fulfillment, each unbarcoded, non-automation issue must not weigh more than an incredible 70.4 ounces which is over 4 lbs.)

How Do I Pay for Postage for Each Mailing?  

The clerk at the BMEU where you file your application will set up your organization with a profile in the online USPS Business Gateway (“BCG”). You will be able to log in and make postage payments with this software. Your application fee, in part, goes to setting up this account with the Postal Service. Since there is no pre-printed postal permit indicia, meter mark or stamps used, putting money on account via a USPS Business Gateway online account is the only method for payment of each presented mailing.

What  Are There Size Requirements for Flat-Rate Periodicals?:

Similar to automation flat-rate mailings, the longest side of the periodic publication cannot exceed 15 inches. The shortest side cannot be greater than 12 inches. For barcoded pieces, the maximum thickness is 3/4 of an inch. (However, technically for non-barcoded pieces which would not be handled by our office, the maximum thickness is 1 ¼”.)

Is there a Minimum or Maximum Number of Records for Sending Periodical mailings?:  

Technically, there is no minimum quantity, number of records, required for a Periodical Class bulk mailing. However, if you are looking to achieve presort discounts, you will need a minimum of 200ct records.  We recommend that you used at least 215ct records with our company to ensure that you attain automation presort rates.  Although there are no volume requirements, either monthly, quarterly or annually, you must send mailings at least on a periodic schedule, minimally 4x a year (usually quarterly).  There are no maximum number of record limitations.

What Happens if I Forget to File my Annual PS 3526 or PS 3526-R paperwork?

If you forget to file, then you will go onto the USPS “Naughty List” and will very likely receive a certified letter from the USPS Pricing and Classification Service Center. You don’t want this to happen.  Remember the K.O.P. above?  The one at your friend’s apartment?  Well, you are inviting an audit of your operations and they will want to arrange a time to meet you at the Know Office of Publication.  Set a Google reminder; and, don’t forget to file. 

What Would Trigger an Audit or Onsite Review of My Periodicals Mailing Status?

Let’s be clear, no one in the USPS PCSC enjoys auditing periodical permit holders.  Even the IRS randomly audits more taxpayers more often than does the USPS Pricing and Classifications Service Center.  That said, there are two things that will get you into audit territory:

  1. If you forget to file annually, by October 1st of each year, your PS 3526 or PS 3525-R, then you are inviting audit 
  2. If your percentage of copies distributed (i.e. “mailed”) is very far below your number of reported copies printed, then again, you’re inviting questions by the USPS.  Questions might start with a phone call to the Known Office of Publication, but it’s a good bet that you’ll be contacted.  This can also happen when a publication starts including too many non-subscribers with its mailings (over 50% non-subscribers) and then doesn’t explain what is happening.  In such instances, you create your own problems by skirting the rules.  So, simply put, don’t exceed the mailing to more non-subscribers than subscribers because at the end of the year, the USPS will “do the math”. 

How Long Does it Take My PS 3500 Application to be Processed?

Typically, the approval process should take between 90 and 180 days, but sometimes less.  60 days is not unusual, but we have seen or heard of PS 3500 application approvals take as short as 30 days up to 4 years.  If your application is taking over 180 days, it is likely because you didn’t file something out correctly; or, you might have entered your application at a (not recommended) “Associate BMEU” (i.e. not a major Business Mail Entry location).  If you make the application organized, simple and easy to review, then that will speed everything along.  

What do I Need to Put into the Publishers Identification Box (a.k.a. the Statement ID) Which Goes inside the Front of the Periodical?

The best way to handle this, we feel, is either to go to Barnes & Noble and buy a periodical magazine to review how this is done and mimic it.  Or, you could go to and look through a periodical similar to yours which has the publisher’s information box detailed. Certainly, the BMEU clerk may assist, but we suggest that you do a mock-up and then have it submitted to the initial entry BMEU for review.  Some things to consider:

  • You must state where the frequency of when your periodical is published.
  • Don’t put more than one address in the Statement ID; that said…
  • …make sure you state where someone should go for address corrections or change of address; note that it does not have to be the Known Office of Publication (and this information could be stated anywhere around the Statement ID).  
  • If you want to print or mail your periodical while your application is pending, you could still make a mock-up for approval but you would need to use the wording “Periodical Postage Pending”; after formal approval, you will receive a formal Periodical Postage ID number.

What if I Truly Need Help and I Really Have to Talk to Someone At the USPS?

If all else fails, and your local BMEU clerk cannot give you the guidance you need, then contact the USPS Mailing Shipping & Solutions Center (“MSSC”) Help Desk at (877) 672-0007.  When you get to the correct prompt, and are speaking with a live person, ask for someone who has specific USPS Periodicals Application experience in filing the PS 3500 form.  

The USPS Pricing and Classifications Service Center (PCSC) actually knows that this is a very involved application… they don’t want to take your $950 and reject you.  So, you could also do the best you can and then with guidance from the regional BMEU clerk, you could also just wait for questions to arise and request that someone from PCSC call you.