This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.

In the UK people must be registered in order to vote at elections. Those eligible can register to vote online or by sending a paper form to the Electoral Registration Office. There is a separate paper form for those registering in Northern Ireland that must be sent to the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland. 

Who is eligible to register? 

All British citizens resident in the UK and British citizens that qualify as, armed forces or crown servant voters can register to vote in all elections as long as they not disqualified from voting – most people in prison are banned from voting. 

Some British citizens living overseas may register as overseas voters. They may only vote in UK Parliament elections. 

Qualifying Commonwealth citizens and citizens of the Republic of Ireland are eligible to register for all elections in the UK, including UK Parliament elections, as long as they resident and not disqualified. 

Qualifying Commonwealth citizens are those who are resident and have leave to enter or to remain in the UK or do not require such leave. Registration officers have the right to check an applicant’s immigration status. 

EU and foreign citizens resident in the UK can register to vote for local and devolved elections depending on where they are in the UK. They cannot vote in UK Parliament elections regardless of how long they have been resident. 

In England and Northern Ireland EU citizens can register for all local elections. In Scotland and Wales all foreign citizens (including all EU citizens) who are legally resident and have leave to enter or remain in the UK or do not require such leave are eligible to register to vote in local elections and elections to the Scottish Parliament/Senedd Cymru  

The Library has explained in more detail who can vote in UK elections in a briefing paper. 

Voting age 

In order to vote you must be registered to vote and be of voting age on polling day.  

For UK Parliament elections the voting age is 18 

For all elections in England and Northern Ireland the voting age 18 

For local elections in Scotland and Wales and for Scottish Parliament and Senedd Cymru elections the voting age is 16. 

What about those who don’t want to appear on the electoral register? 

There are two versions of the electoral register: the full register and the open register.  

Certain organisations are given or can request copies of the full register. These include the Electoral Commission, political parties, the Office of National Statistics amongst others. Anyone can inspect the full register under supervision. Usually, at a local council office. 

The open register is available to anyone, for any use, on payment of a fee.  

People can opt out of the open register (about 60% of those registered to vote have) but they can’t opt out of the full register. 

Those whose safety might be put at risk by appearing on the full register, such as survivors of domestic abuse, can register to vote anonymously 


The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.

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