The Federal Voting Assistance Program and the Department of State’s page on Absentee Voting Information are the most up-to-date voting information resources for Americans living abroad. Please visit these websites to learn about deadlines and procedures for registering and voting.
Overseas U.S. citizens usually need to register every year, which means mailing in your Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) so that you’re eligible to receive an absentee ballot. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recommends submitting FPCAs in January for November elections. To get started, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website.
You can drop off absentee ballots or voter registration forms at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to be mailed back to the U.S. via diplomatic mail. Please make sure envelopes are properly addressed, sealed and have sufficient postage. For details on preparing election materials to be mailed, please refer to the FVAP’s page: https://www.fvap.gov/eo/overview/sending-ballots/preparing-mail
To ensure delivery of your paper ballot to your local election official by election day, we encourage you to drop off your ballot at the Embassy by October 15, 2020. Ballots received by the Embassy after that date will likely not arrive before Election day if sent by Embassy pouch.
You may also consider returning your ballot to the United States via an express courier service such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL. If allowed by your state, you may also consider returning your ballot electronically or by fax. Check your state’s voting procedures at www.fvap.gov for guidance.
Now all U.S. citizens can receive their blank ballots electronically. Depending on the state in which you are eligible to vote, you may get your ballot by email, fax, or internet download. To start, go to www.FVAP.gov to complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), print and sign the form then return it to your local election office in the United States. We recommend overseas U.S. citizens get in the habit of completing FPCAs each January. You should include your email address on the form so it’s easier for your election officials to reach you if there is a problem. If your state delivers ballots electronically by fax only, be sure to include your fax number. If you request electronic delivery and include your email address or fax number, you’ll receive your blank ballot 45 days before general and mid-term elections and generally 30 days before special, primary, and run-off elections for federal offices. Most states now have voter registration verification websites, and many offer a means of tracking the status of your registration and ballot.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is responsible for the administration of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). This Act requires that states and territories allow U.S. citizens to register and vote absentee in elections for federal office. U.S. citizens eligible to vote include: members of the Uniformed Services and their eligible family members; Merchant Marines and their eligible family members; Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; U.S. citizens employed by the Federal Government residing outside of the U.S.; and all other private U.S. citizens residing outside of the U.S.
Absentee voter’s registration and ballot requests are accomplished through the use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which can be accessed online on the FPCA (PDF 82 KB) website. This form must then be submitted to the appropriate U.S. election official. The FPCA can be used to register to vote or request an absentee ballot for any federal, state, or local election, as well as to report a change in address. However, the extent and manner of FPCA usage is controlled by the individual laws of states and territories, and occasionally by local procedure.
Please note: the deadline for submitting the FPCA may vary from state to state. In order to ensure timely delivery of the election ballot we encourage all U.S. citizens to submit their ballot requests as early as possible. Previously unregistered citizens should submit their request at least 60 days prior to the election, while registered citizens should submit their request at least 45 days prior to the election.
FVAP recommends that overseas voters complete and submit the FPCA every year, in January, and whenever you move. When completing the FPCA indicate your new address and your old address. In addition to informing the local election official of your current mailing address, submitting the FPCA confirms your registration and acts as a request for absentee ballots for any subsequent elections.
Regardless of when you submit your FPCA, you should make sure to include a voter registration number or a social security number to assist local election officials in properly identifying you. You should endeavor to submit an address change early enough so that you will have enough time to receive your ballot, vote, and return your ballot to the local election official in time to meet the state deadline. In the event that you return to the state in which you are registered to vote, be sure to notify your local election officials that you plan on voting at the polls rather than by absentee ballot.
The FVAP website also maintains a section featuring information from the fifty-five states and territories regarding the electronic ballot request and delivery alternatives available to citizens covered by UOCAVA. Each state and territory’s different laws regarding the use of electronic transmission alternatives to the by-mail process with respect to absentee voting can be accessed by clicking here.
- Registering to Vote and submitting a ballot is fast, easy, and can be done from anywhere in the world!
- The 2020-21 Edition of the Voting Assistance Guide (PDF 4,498 KB)
- Resources for those who have never resided in the U.S.
- Frequently asked questionsabout the FVAP