Absentee Voting Information for U.S. Citizens Living Abroad
At Relocity, we encourage all U.S. citizens to vote, no matter their current circumstances. If you are living outside the U.S., here is how you can still exercise your right to vote.
Eligibility to Vote
Most U.S. citizens 18 years or older who reside outside the United States are eligible to vote absentee for federal office candidates in U.S. primary and general elections. Some states allow overseas citizens to vote also for state and local office candidates and referendums.
To verify eligibility and State requirements please consult the 2020-21 Voting Assistance Guide (chapter 2).
In many states, U.S. citizens who are 18 years or older and were born abroad but who have never resided in the United States are eligible to vote absentee. Here is a complete list of the states that have passed legislation to allow that.
US Legal State of Residency
Overseas citizens' legal state of residence for voting purposes is the state or territory where they last resided immediately prior to their departure from the United States. This applies to overseas citizens even if they do not have property or other ties in the last state of residence. Children of these citizens should use the residence address of one of their parents or legal guardians. This residence may remain valid even if the citizen:
- No longer owns property or has other ties to that state.
- His intent to return to that state is uncertain.
- His previous address is no longer a recognized residential address.
Once again, please check the 2020-21 Voting Assistance Guide (chapter 2) for Federal Election Deadlines which vary by State.
Absentee Voting Process
Absentee voting is a two-step process:
1. Register and Request the Absentee Ballot via FPCA here
- Each year, ideally in January but at least 45 days before an election, you should submit a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election officials.
- It is important to remember that your voting residence address listed on the FPCA must be an address in the United States. Placing an overseas address in Section 2 of the form may automatically disqualify you.
- You can also pick up an FPCA and copy of your state’s requirements from U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.
- You can always return your FPCA by mail. In addition, most states allow you to send your FPCA by fax or email. Please check the 2020-21 Voting Assistance Guide for your state’s requirements.
- The FPCA will allow officials to confirm your eligibility to vote and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots for any elections held that calendar year.
- Officials will send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail, to the address you provided on the FPCA.
- You should submit a new FPCA once a year o every time you move, and whenever you change your address, email, or name
2. Complete and return the ballot so it arrives before your state's ballot return deadline (see Voting Assistance Guide).
- For the general election, you should receive your ballot by early October.
- Vote and send back your ballot as soon as you receive it. Check the deadline for your ballot based on your state.
- You can return your ballot via: Local mail with appropriate international postage, U.S. Embassy Diplomatic Pouch, you or another person can drop off your ballot request (FPCA) or completed ballot at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for return to the United States. It must be addressed to your local election officials and have sufficient U.S. postage, or be in a postage-paid envelope. A postage-paid envelope is available on the FVAP website. Contact the U.S. embassy voting assistance officer or visit the embassy’s website for specific instructions. Fax, Email, or Internet, some states permit the electronic transmission of completed ballots. Again, consult the Voting Assistance Guide for options in your state. You could also use an Express Courier Service if time is short or local mail unreliable, at your own expense.
- If you requested your ballot but haven't received it, contact your election office to ask about the status of your ballot request.
- If there isn't enough time to receive and send back your ballot before the election, use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) . It works as a backup ballot.
- If your official absentee ballot arrives after sending in the FWAB, fill out and send in the official ballot too. Only one vote will be counted.
- After you send in your ballot, you can check if it was received by your election office.
- Voting for candidates for federal offices does not affect your federal or state tax liability. Voting for candidates for state or local offices could affect your state tax liability. Consult legal counsel if you have questions.
Useful Links and Contacts
How to determine the voting residence for registering to vote absentee.
List of useful websites with voting information by state
The Federal Voting Assistance Program is available in many countries to answer questions via phone or fax. Here is a complete list of contact numbers by Country .
If local assistance is unavailable, please contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program in the US. Support Hours of Operation: 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday:
- Toll-free: 1-800-438-VOTE (8683)
- DSN: 425-1584