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

British citizens living abroad who no longer have an address in the UK can register to vote in UK general elections. These are known as overseas voters or overseas electors.

Overseas voters cannot vote in any local elections, including for mayors and police and crime commissioners, nor elections to Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru, or Northern Ireland Assembly. They may be allowed to vote in a national referendum if the referendum uses the parliamentary electoral register.

Service voters, those in the armed forces or their spouses, stationed overseas can register as overseas voters but there are also special arrangements for them, and they may register as service voters. Service voters can vote in all elections as if they were still based in the UK. The Electoral Commission page Register as a service voter provides more information.

Overseas voter eligibility

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.

How to register

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.

If someone was registered at two addresses at the same time before leaving they must choose one address to register as an overseas voter.

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.

How do overseas voters cast their vote?

Voters registered in a constituency in Great Britain can vote by post or proxy, known as an absent vote. They can also vote in person if they are in the UK on polling day and have not asked for a postal vote.

The Electoral Commission recommends overseas voters vote by proxy if possible. This is to minimise the risk of ballot papers not being returned in time. Postal votes must be back by 10pm on polling day to be included in the vote.

Voters in Northern Ireland cannot vote by post. They must appoint a proxy.

Further information

Neil Johnston is a researcher in the House of Commons Library, specialising in elections.


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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