Who can vote?

You can register to vote if:

  • you are 16 or over (but you cannot vote until your 18th birthday)
  • you are a British or Commonwealth citizen
  • you are a citizen of the Irish Republic or another European Union (EU) country

You can also vote if you:

  • are a lodger or person staying at an address and have no other home
  • normally live at the address but are away temporarily
  • are in hospital, a student, or on holiday or working away for less than 6 months

You are eligible to vote in all elections in the UK if:

Anyone who is not a British, Commonwealth, Irish or EU citizen is not entitled to vote in any election in this country. Having leave to stay does not give anyone the right to vote, unless they qualify on grounds of nationality.

For more information on who can vote, read the information on the Electoral Commission website.

Students are entitled to register at both their home address and their university address. It is an offence to vote more than once in a national election, but you can vote in both areas of local elections.

Service personnel and their wives, husbands and civil partners have the option of making a service declaration, which means that they will remain registered for three years. After that period, it must be renewed. The Electoral Services Office will send a reminder for this purpose. If you need to register as an HM Armed Forces elector, email

If you are a British citizen, you can register as an overseas elector for a period of fifteen years after the last year in which your name appeared in the electoral register as living in the UK.

You will then be entitled to vote at UK Parliamentary and European Parliamentary elections, but not local government elections, for the Mayor of London or to the Greater London Assembly.

Once an application has been approved, it must be renewed every year. The Electoral Services Office will send overseas electors a reminder for this purpose.

Can British citizens living abroad vote?

British citizens living abroad can vote in UK Parliamentary and European Parliamentary elections but cannot vote in local elections or elections to devolved bodies such as the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or Greater London Authority.

British citizens living abroad for more than 15 years are not eligible to register to vote in UK elections.

What methods of voting are available?

If you are registered to vote as an overseas elector, you cannot vote in local elections or elections to devolved bodies (such as the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or Greater London Authority). Overseas voters can opt to vote by post or proxy at other elections.

Postal votes are only sent out about a week before election day, so you will need to consider whether this gives you enough time to complete and return your form in time. It may be better to appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf.

Download an overseas proxy voter form or email for more information.

What can I do if I don't know any British citizens here to sign my witness statement?

As long as the form is signed by a British citizen living abroad, they do not need to be resident in the same country as you. If this is not an option, the British consulate or Embassy staff may assist you and sign the form.

Why can I not vote if I have been away for more than 15 years?

The length of time that a UK citizen can vote once they have moved abroad is limited by law to 15 years. Until 1985 no UK citizen living overseas could vote (other than Members of the Armed Forces or Crown Servants). Since 1985 the time limit has been 5 years, 20 years and now it is 15 years.

Page last updated: 18 May 2022