|IMPORTANT NOTE: States are no longer required to automatically send ballots to voters for an entire election cycle so everyone who wants to vote in U.S. elections from overseas should send in a new Federal Post Card Application in January of each year. Please visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program's website for further information on the absentee voting information for U.S. Citizens abroad.|
The Federal Voting Assistance Program is the official US Government website for overseas absentee voting assistance. This website has a wealth of information about absentee voting, including the downloadable absentee ballot application, state-specific instructions for completing the form, links to or contact numbers for state and local officials, and the downloadable emergency ballot.
Who Can Vote from Overseas?
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) allows certain U.S. citizens to vote in absentia, including members of the U.S. Uniformed Services on active duty and their family members while away from their place of voting residence, wherever stationed, within or outside the United States.
The UOCAVA also applies to U.S. citizens residing outside the United States and its territories. These citizens may vote in the state or territory where they last resided immediately prior to departing the United States, even if many years have elapsed and the citizen maintains no residence in the state or territory and the intent to return to that state or territory may not be certain. Most states and territories permit these citizens to vote in elections for Federal offices only, although some states may send a ballot containing local, state and Federal offices.
Note that the UOCAVA provides that voting for Federal offices shall not affect the determination of the voter's place of residence for purpose of any tax imposed under Federal, state or local law. Liability for state income tax, however, may be incurred in some states by voting absentee in state or local elections. To assess the probability of incurring state taxes on income earned outside the United States, you may wish to consult legal counsel for details.
For more information on Overseas Voting, please visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website.
Registering to Vote
To vote absentee, U.S. citizens living outside the United States must be registered to vote and must request an absentee ballot. In order to register to vote and/or to request an absentee ballot, an eligible U.S. citizen must accurately complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and submit it to the voting officials in your “legal state of residence” in the United States.
The “legal state of residence” is the state in which you could vote if you were present in that state. The rules for determining that state depend on your status overseas.
- Military and Merchant Marine members, and their spouses and dependents, may register to vote in the domicile (state) that the member claims as his or her residence.
- Civilian U.S. Government employees overseas, and their spouses and dependents, generally register in the state they claim as their legal residence.
- Overseas citizens (not affiliated with the U.S. Government) must vote in their last state of residence immediately prior to departure from the United States. This rule applies even though you may not have property or other ties in your last state of residence and your intent to return to that state may be uncertain.
- American citizens who have never resided in the United States should apply to the state where their American citizen parent(s) last resided, although they should be aware that not all states will grant such a request. Please refer to the state instructions.
For more information on your state’s requirements and to register to vote and/or to request an absentee ballot, please visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program's website. These websites’ on-line step-by-step instructions will guide you through in completing your request depending on your overseas status and your legal state of residence requirements.
Please note that the deadline for submitting the FPCA may vary from state to state. In order to ensure timely delivery of the election ballot to you, every non-registered citizen is urged to submit the FPCA at least 60 days prior to the election; registered citizens are urged to submit the FPCA at least 45 days before the election.
Absentee Voting Process
- You send in a completed FPCA to your local election officials
- They confirm your eligibility to vote, and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots
- They send you a blank absentee ballot by mail or make it available electronically
- You complete the ballot and send it back before the ballot receipt deadline
- If your ballot fails to arrive, use the emergency federal write-in ballot to vote
If you are 30 days before the election and you still have not received your ballot, you should complete and submit a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). (PDF-347KB)
Voting and Returning Your Ballot
Complete your ballot carefully and legibly, and return it to your local election officials before your state's ballot receipt deadline. Overseas voters have a number of options for returning voted ballots:
- Local mail - If you live in an area with efficient mail service to the United States, affix sufficient international postage to your ballot envelope and mail it promptly.
- U.S. Embassy Pouch/Army Postal Service (APO/FPO) - Official election ballot envelopes that bear postage-paid markings can be returned via U.S. diplomatic pouch or Military Postal Service free of charge. You can also print out and use an envelope with postage-paid markings that is available on the FVAP web site. NOTE: U.S. Embassy, Seoul will mail your completed forms and ballots! Drop off your completed forms and ballots in the appropriate “postage paid” return envelopes that have been addressed to your state’s voting office and we will mail your forms/ballots to the U.S. via diplomatic pouch.
- Fax, E-mail, or Internet - A number of states now allow the return of voted ballots via electronic means. Consult the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Voting Assistance Guide for electronic transmission options for your state.
- Express Courier Service - If time is short or local mail is unreliable, you can use professional courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS. NOTE: FedEx does not deliver to P.O. boxes.
Last updated: April 25, 2016
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FEDERAL VOTING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
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