Documents to download

British citizens living overseas are entitled to be registered to vote in elections to the UK Parliament. They are known as overseas voters or overseas electors. They cannot vote in local elections or elections to the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments or the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Votes for life from 2024

From 16 January 2024 the rules on eligibility to register as an overseas voter changed. The previous rule that someone could only register for 15 years after they left the UK was abolished.

This was a manifesto commitment from the Conservative Party under their ‘votes for life’ policy. The Labour Party favoured keeping the 15-year rule.

Eligibility to vote from overseas

From 16 January 2024 any British citizen living overseas can register to vote as an overseas voter if they meet one of two conditions:

  • they were previously registered to vote in UK elections, including as an overseas voter, or
  • they were previously resident in the UK before moving to an address abroad.

Overseas voters must apply to register in the local authority of the last address they were registered to vote or were resident.

Voters registering in England, Wales and Scotland can apply to vote online or with a paper form in the usual way; overseas voters registering in Northern Ireland must fill in a paper form.  

Applications must be verified, and electoral registration officers can ask for additional documentary evidence to confirm a connection with a previous address.

Providing false information is an offence.

Registration is valid for three years and overseas voter will be sent a reminder that their registration needs renewing. Previously Before 16 January 2024 registration lasted a year before overseas voters had to reapply. Transitional arrangements will be in place to cover the change to the renewal cycle from every 12 months to every three years for existing overseas electors.

How many overseas voters are there?

Until 2015 the number of overseas voters registered to vote had never risen above 35,000. However, the number increased after 2015, when there was an overseas voter registration campaign in the run up to the 2015 General Election and interest in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

At the UK General Election of 2017, a record 285,000 registered overseas voters were registered (see section 3). At the time, the Government estimated that this was about 20% of eligible expats under the 15-year limit.

At the December 2019 General Election 233,000 overseas voters were registered. This has since declined to 105,000 in December 2021 as overseas numbers tend to decline between elections. Many do not renew their registrations in years when no election is expected.

The Government estimates (PDF) the changes, ending the 15-year limit and allowing all British citizens previously resident to be eligible, will mean around 3.5 million British nationals living overseas would be eligible to register to vote.

Documents to download

Related posts