Absentee Voting Information for U.S. Citizens Abroad
VOTING IS NOW EASIER THAN EVER BEFORE
U.S. citizens can now receive an absentee ballot by email, fax, or internet download, depending on the state they are eligible to vote in.
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. In addition, some states allow overseas citizens to vote for state and local office candidates and referendums. For information about your specific state, visit the FVAP Voting Assistance Guide or the Overseas Vote Foundation website. The Overseas Vote Foundation is a non-partisan voter advocacy organization.
For voting purposes, your state of legal residence is generally the state where you resided immediately before leaving the United States, even if you no longer own or rent property or intend to return in the future. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia specifically allow U.S. citizens who have never resided in the United States to register where a parent would be eligible to vote. Direct your questions about eligibility to local election officials.
Start by submitting a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) on the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website, FVAP.gov, or the Overseas Vote Foundation website overseasvotefoundation.org. Use the online assistant and carefully follow the instructions for your state to receive a ballot. Include accurate contact details in case there is a problem.
IMPORTANT: U.S. citizens abroad must submit a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) each year to vote in U.S. elections. Submit your FPCA at the beginning of the calendar year, or at least 45 days before an election, to allow ample time to process your request and resolve any problems. Once approved, your name will be put on a list of voters to receive absentee ballots.
For more information see:
- Absentee Voting Basics
- Registration/Absentee Ballot Request
- Receiving Your Blank Absentee Ballot
- Voting and Returning Your Ballot
- Using an Emergency Write-In Ballot
- Verifying Your Registration
- Role of Local Election Officials
- Be an Educated Voter
- Voting and Taxes
Absentee Voting Basics
Absentee voting is a simple two-step process:
- Each year, submit a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election officials. They will:
- Confirm your eligibility to vote and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots for any elections held that calendar year.
- Send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail.
- Complete and return the ballot so it arrives before your state's ballot return deadline OR
- If you have not received your blank ballot 30 days before an election, use the emergency Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to vote.
Most states now have voter registration verification websites. (See Verifying Your Registration) Many offer a way to track the status of your registration and ballot. In general, if you requested electronic delivery of your blank ballot, you will receive it 45 days before general and mid-term elections, and 30 days before special, primary, and run-off elections for federal offices.
Registration/Absentee Ballot Request
To vote from abroad, you must register with local election officials in your state of legal voting residence AND each year request an absentee ballot. You can use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to do both. Submit a new FPCA early each year, every time you move, and whenever you change your address, email, or name.
Start at the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) or Overseas Vote Foundation website, where an online assistant walks you through the process. You can also pick up an FPCA and copy of your state’s requirements from U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, or from many overseas U.S. citizen civic or political groups.
You can always return your FPCA by mail. In addition, most states allow you to send in your FPCA by fax or email. (See Voting and Returning Your Ballot below for options.) Consult the online FVAP Voting Assistance Guide for your state’s current instructions. If you need help completing or submitting the form, contact the voting assistance officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Receiving Your Blank Absentee Ballot
Forty-five days before November general elections, your state will send you a blank ballot either electronically or via mail at the address you provided on your FPCA.
Ballots will generally be mailed out 30 days before primary, special, and run-off elections. Depending on your state and your status abroad, you may receive absentee ballots for all elections or abbreviated ballots for federal office elections only.
Voting and Returning Your Ballot
Complete your ballot carefully, legibly, and as early as possible. Make sure to return it to local election officials in time to meet your state’s deadline.
Overseas voters have a number of options for returning completed ballots:
- Local mail – If you have a reliable mail service to the United States, put your ballot in the 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 FVAP.gov. Contact the U.S. embassy voting assistance officer or visit the embassy’s website for specific instructions.
- Fax, Email, or Internet – Some states now allow the electronic return of completed ballots. Consult the FVAP Voting Assistance Guide for options in your state.
- Express Courier Service – If time is short or local mail unreliable, you can use professional courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS at your own expense. NOTE: FedEx does not deliver to P.O. boxes.
Using an Emergency Write-in Ballot
If you completed all required steps but have not received your ballot 30 days before an election, submit a completed Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Contact the voting assistance officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for help, or visit FVAP.gov to complete an FWAB using the online assistant. Write in the candidates of your choice, then print, sign, and send the FWAB to your local election officials. If your regular absentee ballot arrives after submitting a FWAB, you should still complete and return it. Your FWAB will be counted only if your regular ballot does not reach local election officials by your state’s deadline. This will not invalidate your vote or result in casting two votes.
Verifying Your Registration
Most states now have websites to verify voter registration. If you are unsure of your status or want to confirm that local officials have received and approved your registration, check the FVAP website for a directory of state voter registration verification websites. You can also write, email, or call local election officials directly.
Role of Local Election Officials
All elections in the United States are run at the state and local level. If local election officials have questions about your form, they will contact you. Submit your FPCA at the beginning of the calendar year, or at least 45 days before an election, to allow ample time to process your request and resolve any problems. Once approved, your name will be put on a list of voters to receive absentee ballots.
Be an Educated Voter
Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues.
Voting and Taxes
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.
Learn About Your Destination
Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws: While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. Check out our country-specific safety and travel information about the places you will visit.