All abroad! More Brits overseas can now register to vote

All abroad! More Brits overseas can now register to vote

British citizens living abroad are now eligible to register to vote in UK general elections, regardless of how long they’ve been living outside the UK. A new law, coming into effect tomorrow, removes the previous 15-year time limit. 

The Electoral Commission is calling on voters in the UK to help spread the word and tell friends and family living abroad to check if they are eligible. The Commission is working with partner organisations to inform eligible voters around the world. 

People that have previously lived in or been registered to vote in the UK now have the right to vote in UK parliament elections. They can register online at gov.uk/registertovote and will need to confirm their personal information every three years. Under electoral law, those on an electoral register are also permitted to donate to political parties and campaigners.

Craig Westwood, Director of Communications, said: 
“This change gives more British citizens living abroad the opportunity to participate in UK Parliament elections, and to contribute to the funding of political parties and campaigns.  

“We know there are eligible voters in every corner of the world so we’re calling on those with friends and family abroad to help spread the news. With a general election likely this year, it is important this newly enfranchised group of voters are aware of the change and can take action. Registering to vote can be done online in just five minutes.”

The change is part of the UK Government’s Election Act, passed in 2022. The government estimates that the abolishment of the 15 year rule could mean three million overseas British citizens could be eligible to vote. 

British citizens living abroad will need to provide details of the address and time they were last registered or resident in the UK. Local authorities, which are responsible for the electoral roll in their area, must be able to verify an applicant’s identity and past connection to the area. 

More information is available on the Electoral Commission website. Voters living overseas can find contact details for the relevant local council by entering the postcode of the last place they lived in the UK, using the Commission’s postcode lookup tool. 

Resources for raising awareness are available on the Commission website.

Ends

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  • ONS research suggests that the most popular destination countries for British emigrants are Australia or New Zealand, US or Canada, and EU member countries.

  • Just over 230,000 people were registered as overseas voters at the 2019 general election. 

  • UK Parliament elections covers UK parliamentary general elections, UK parliamentary by-elections and recall petitions. Eligibility for other types of election has not changed. 
  • Those looking to vote in Northern Ireland need to fill out a paper form to register and send it to the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland. British and eligible Irish citizens can register to vote in UK general elections. 

  • Many voters living abroad choose to apply for absent votes. Applications to vote by post or proxy in Great Britain can now also be done online. 

  • The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:

    • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
    • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches

    • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

  • The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK, Welsh and Scottish parliaments.