U.S. citizens overseas are guaranteed the right to vote in federal elections in the United States. Please note that you cannot simply log on to a website and vote at the last minute. Almost all states require voters to physically send in registration documents, receive paper ballots by return post, and mail in their completed ballots. Adequate preparation is the key.
You cannot register to vote or vote at the U.S. Embassy. However, we do supply the forms necessary to request an absentee ballot from your last state of residence. Please visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website. This site has detailed information about absentee voting, including how to download, fill in and send the absentee ballot request form to the appropriate address in your state. For quick answers, consult the FVAP’s Voting FAQ.
You can also find more information at Travel.state.gov.
Important Notice: States are no longer required to automatically send ballots to voters for an entire election cycle so everyone who wants to vote in U.S. elections from overseas should send in a new Federal Post Card Application in January of each year.
The Absentee Voting Process
- To request an absentee ballot you must complete and mail a Federal Post Card Application, available at the FVAP website or at the U.S. Embassy.
- A Local Election Official in your state of residence approves your request to register/vote, or asks you for more information.
- Once approved, a Local Election Official in your state of residence mails you an absentee ballot.
You complete the ballot, notarize it at the U.S. Embassy if required, and mail it back to your state of residence. You can send the FPCA to the U.S. for free through the U.S. Embassy if the envelope indicates that postage has been pre-paid. Mailing time to the U.S. varies, subject to factors in the postal system beyond our control. You can also mail it directly to the U.S. using the local postage system by placing the appropriate airmail stamp on it.
The issue of voting residence is complex. Even in states where laws clearly define criteria for determining a person’s voting residence, the final determination is generally up to each local election official. The UOCAVA allows citizens outside the United States (not affiliated with the Uniformed Services) to vote in the state or territory where they last resided immediately prior to departing the United States, even if many years have elapsed, and the voter maintains no residence in the state or territory, and the intent to return to that state or territory may not be certain. If a citizen is uncertain about his or her current legal voting residence, the citizen should examine his or her connections or ties to the state or territory in question and consult with legal counsel.
Overseas Civilian Citizens
The following general guidelines are for citizens residing outside the United States, who are not active duty military or their family members, in determining their state of legal residence for voting purposes.
- “Legal state of residence” for voting purposes is the state where you last resided immediately prior to your departure from the United States. This right extends to overseas citizens even though they may no longer own property or have other ties to their last state of residence and their intent to return to that state may be uncertain.
- Eligibility to vote and residency requirement is determined by the state. Your right to vote in your state and determination of voting precinct depend on your physical residence while you were in the state.
- Only 17 states, to date, provide exemption to the physical presence law for UOCAVA citizens overseas. These states allow eligible U.S. citizens who have never resided in the U.S. to register and vote where a parent would be eligible to vote. See the 2007-08 Voting Assistance Guide (www.fvap.gov) for specific information.
- The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 provides that exercising the right to vote in elections for Federal offices under the Act should not affect for purposes of any Federal, state or local tax, the residence or domicile of a person exercising such right.Voting for Federal offices only may not be used as the sole basis to determine residency for the purposes of imposing state and local taxes. If you claim a particular state as your residence and have other ties with that state in addition to voting, then you may be liable for state and local taxation, depending upon that particular state law. Consult your legal counsel or tax adviser with specific questions.
What about Taxes?
Exercising your right to vote in elections for Federal offices only does not affect the determination of residence or domicile for purposes of any tax imposed under Federal, state or local law. Voting in an election for Federal office only may not be used as the sole basis to determine residency for the purposes of imposing state and local taxes.If you claim a particular state as your residence and have other ties with that state in addition to voting then you may be liable for state and local taxation, depending upon that particular state law. Consult your state tax officials for further information.
Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)
Overseas voters may be eligible to use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to vote for federal offices (President/Vice President, Senator, and Representative).The FWAB may be used only for general elections and is a backup for voters who expect to be able to use the regular absentee ballot from their state or territory but who did not receive that ballot in time to vote and return it.The FWAB must be received by the local election official no later than the deadline for receipt of regular absentee ballots under state law.
The FWAB is to be used to assist those voters who would be disenfranchised through no fault of their own, and is not designed as a replacement for the regular state ballot. It is valid only when the state ballot has been requested. The FWAB is available at the U.S. Embassy.
Please visit www.fvap.gov for further information about absentee voting. Or visit the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy (Mon – Thr, 0830 – 1230; Fri 0830 – 1230)