Petersburg residents are now being asked to show two forms of identification to renew free post office boxes every year. A U.S. Postal Service official says it’s not a change in regulation; two forms of ID to verify a residential address were always required. But that regulation has not been enforced at the Petersburg post office until this year.

The postal service’s marketing manager for the Alaska district Dawn Peppinger explains. “Now on behalf of the Postal Service I do sincerely apologize that this is coming as new to the residents in Petersburg because this requirement has been in place since we’ve offered the free PO box,” Peppinger said. “So if the previous post masters have not been enforcing this unfortunately it has come to the attention that if that is the case we have to comply. So your new post master unfortunately is going to bear that, the brunt of the feedback from the customer that this is new, it’s not. It is something that’s always been required.”

That requirement is detailed in a letter and renewal form sent to box holders signed by the postal service’s vice president of retail and customer service operations Kelly M. Sigmon. That’s in a sealed envelope from the Postal Service. It’s different from the single sheet of paper for the renewal form that customers have seen in the past. That form could be quickly filled out and dropped off, without the ID verification. Now people have to wait in line at the Post Office to show their IDs and confirm their address.

Peppinger said box holders should see both the single renewal sheet and the letter from the Post Office in the mail. “We’re actually enhancing our own address database with people who have physical addresses we don’t deliver to and then physical addresses that we do,” she explained. “So that’s something internally going and our address management system. And so they did send out a letter to all the customers who are in our PO box system as a group E customer but the local post office is still doing their, the normal form that the customer should see, just a piece of paper in the mail box typically.”

Group E customers are those who are eligible for one free post office box, but only one per household and only for verified addresses. Those are provided in some rural Alaska communities with no carrier delivery.

One of the forms of ID must have a photo; the other needs to show a person’s physical address. That can include a voter registration card, utility bill, vehicle registration or insurance policy. Box holders have to return the form within 10 days of receiving it.