Generally, all U.S. citizens 18 years and older who are or will be residing outside the United States during an election period are eligible to vote absentee in any election for federal office. This includes primary, run-off and special elections that occur throughout the year, as well as the Presidential general elections. This year´s general election will include all the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the seats in the U.S. Senate. Some states also allow overseas voters to vote in elections for state and local offices, as well as for state and local referendums. For more information regarding your specific state, visit the FVAP guide or the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) website. The Overseas Vote Foundation is a non-partisan voter advocacy organization.
Voting eligibility and residency requirements are determined by individual U.S. states. Visit the FVAP for more information regarding your state of legal residence. Your "state of legal residence" for voting purposes is generally the state where you last resided immediately prior to departure from the United States. Voting rights extend to overseas citizens even though they may no longer own property or have other ties to their last state of residence, and even if an intent to return to that state may be uncertain. For those U.S. citizens who have never resided in the United States, eighteen states allow eligible U.S. citizens to register where a parent would be eligible to vote.
Voting for candidates for federal offices does not affect your federal or state liability.
Registration/Absentee Ballot Request
Use a Federal Post card Application (FPCA) to register to vote and/or apply for an absentee ballot. The standard FPCA can be obtained from any U.S. Embassy or Consulate or many American Civic Groups. The on-line version of the FPCA is accepted by all states and territories. The on-line FPCA form must be completed legibly, printed, signed, dated, and mailed to your local election officials. Some states allow electronic transmission of the FPCA via fax or email to speed the process, but many states will still require voters to send in the original by mail after faxing or emailing. The FVAP Voting Assistance Guide and your local election officials have the latest information on your state's requirements. Use an envelope to protect your privacy and affix proper postage. If you require assistance submitting your FPCA, the closest Department of State Voting Assistance Officer can help. Visit the website of your closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact a Voting Assistance Officer. If you require assistance completing your FPCA but are unable to visit an embassy or consulate, the FVAP and the Overseas Vote Foundation both have on-line tools to assist with completing your forms. The Federal Voting Assistance Program website has a wealth of additional information about absentee voting.
Recent changes to federal law eliminated the obligation for states to send out ballots for successive federal elections based on a single FPCA. The validity of an absentee ballot request now varies by state, and may evolve over time. In some states, on eFPCA will qualify you to receive all ballots for elections for Federal offices in that calendar year only. As a result, we urge all U.S. citizens to submit a new FPCA in January of each year, and whenever you change your address, email address, or name.
As a general rule, you should try and send your completed FPCA so that it reaches your local election officials at least forty-five days before the election in which you are eligible to vote. In most cases, this will provide time for election officials to process the request and send you a blank ballot. If applying for both registration and an absentee ballot, you should plan to mail the FPCA earlier to allow time to address any complications that may arise. FVAP and the Overseas Vote Foundation both provide information on registration and ballot request deadlines.
Beginning with the November 2012 general elections, states and territories will be required to send ballots to overseas citizens 45 days before the election except under emergency circumstances. Mail-out periods for the 2012 primary elections vary by state, and may allow significantly less time to vote and return a ballot. Vote and return your ballot promptly to meet your state's ballot receipt deadline. Be sure to comply with your state's procedures/requirements.
Don't Wait - Plan to Use a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot
Be aware of mail transit times between your home town and your residence abroad, and the reliability of local mail service. Don't be a passive voter and wait for a ballot that may not reach you in time. If you have not received your ballot 30 days before an election complete and submit a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) or "emergency ballot" to ensure your vote is counted. Contact the Voting Assistance Officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for help, or download the FVAB here, write in the candidates of your choice, and mail it to your local election officials. If your regular absentee ballot arrives later, fill it out ad mail it back too. If by chance both make it in by the deadline, your local election official will be able to determine which of the two ballots should be counted. Proper submissions of both ballots will not invalidate your vote or result in two votes being cast.
Be an Educated Voter
The FVAP links page has links to many helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues of importance to you. To get up to date voting information, email to subscribe to FVAP's Voting Alerts. FVAP also shares Voting Alerts vis Facebook and Twitter. Additionally non-partisan information about candidates, their voting records, and their positions on issues is widely available and easy to obtain via numerous websites; one such website is Project Vote Smart. You can also read national and hometown newspapers on-line or search the internet to locate articles and information.
The American Citizen Services unit at the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik is available to answer questions about absentee voting. Please contact us by email: Consular Section. We will respond to your message within two business days.
All downloadable documents on this page are provided in PDF format. To view PDFs you must have a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader. You may download a free version by clicking the link above.