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

Some British citizens living abroad can register to vote in UK Parliamentary elections. These people can also vote in referendums that use the Parliamentary electoral register.

British citizens living abroad can’t vote in other types of elections (except those that are service voters). This includes local elections, Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru/ Welsh Parliament and elections for Police and Crime Commissioners.

Which British citizens living abroad can register to vote?

In order to qualify to vote British citizens living abroad must have:

  • lived in the UK within the last 15 years, and
  • been registered to vote in the UK at some point in the past (unless they were too young to register before they moved abroad).

Voters who meet these qualifications are known as overseas voters in UK electoral law.

Didn’t the Government repeal the 15-year time limit?

The Government passed legislation, section 14 of the Elections Act 2022, to end the 15-year time limit on overseas voters and remove the requirement to have been registered to vote in the UK. This legislation is not yet in force. This means the 15-year time limit and the registration requirements on overseas voters still apply.

The Government must make secondary legislation to bring it force. It also needs to make secondary legislation set out where and how newly enfranchised overseas voters will register. This is expected in the first half 2023 and newly eligible overseas voters are likely to be able to register from July 2023.

Why hasn’t the 15-year time limit been repealed yet?

The Government prioritised bringing other aspects of the Election Act 2022, like new voter ID requirements, into force before the 15-year time limit.    

How do overseas voters register to vote?

Overseas voters can register to vote online. They may need to provide passport details when using this service.

Overseas voters are currently required to reregister every year. Although this will change to every three years when the relevant parts of the Election Act 2022 are bought into force.

How do overseas voters cast their vote?

Registered overseas voters can vote by proxy or by post. They can also vote in person if they are in the UK when an election is happening and able to get to the relevant polling station.

Overseas voters should consider voting by proxy. The Electoral Commission has noted that overseas voters often face challenges voting by post. Rules which dictate when ballot papers can create a short window for overseas voters to receive and send back their ballot paper.

Overseas voters must nominate if they are voting by proxy of by post when they register. They must also complete a proxy or postal vote application alongside their registration. constituency.

Further information


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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