Life Hack: Overseas Voting Rules for Expats

by Marion Wotton
in Relocation, life admin advice, Global Mobility
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One of the key differences that many Expats face between ‘life at home’ and ‘normal life’ is voting. Voting rules for expats while living overseas at first glance it may not seem that big of a deal, but it can be important.

The vast majority of expats will not have the right to vote in their country of residence. This may contribute to a sense of disconnection at an emotional level from the society that you’re living in. An aspect of the ‘expat bubble’, if you will.

But sometimes, you can get lucky. A notable exception to this ‘no one but citizens voting’ stance is the UK, where (currently) it is not only UK citizens who can vote in domestic elections, but also Commonwealth and Irish citizens who are resident in the UK.

Can I still vote ‘at home’?

It is important to know what the overseas voting rules are that apply to you for as an expat. What your rights, responsibilities and options are in terms of voting in elections in your home country.

Australians overseas

Australian casting overseas ballot

Australia has compulsory voting (as an Australian, I truly believe this is a good thing). However, it also only allows you three years of overseas voting before you are struck off the electoral roll (or six years for government and defence employees). Therefore, it can be important to make the most of your opportunity to vote while you can. The Australian Electoral Commission website is the best source for personalised information.

UK citizens abroad

In contrast, the UK allows citizens 15 years of residence overseas prior to removing your right to vote. Details on how to register to vote while abroad, and on how to appoint a Proxy Vote are via the Gov.UK site.

Indian citizens living overseas

Expatriate Indian citizens are can enrol to vote as overseas electors as long as they have not acquired citizenship of any other country (so not a dual national). Detailed information and online forms are available from the Electoral Commission of India.

Canadian expat voting rules have changed

Voting by postal ballot

Canada has recently amended their overseas voting rules, removing the previously existing 5 year cap on expat Canadian citizens being able to cast a vote in domestic elections. This may be pertinent within Hong Kong, as Hong Kong has a relatively high proportion of Canada’s expat population.

(fun fact – within my children’s British International school in HK, the majority of students are registered with Canadian – or dual Canadian – citizenship)

US overseas citizens

In contrast the USA has voter registration rules that determine whether or not US citizens who were formerly resident in the US are eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Further details are available via the Federal Voting Assistance Program portal.

An often overlooked aspect of relocations

My personal situation is that while I’m no longer able to vote in Australian elections as I’ve been non-resident for so long, I can still vote in my adopted country (although I don’t live there now) for another 13+ years! Given that I’m not able to vote locally in Hong Kong, I value the opportunity to have my voice heard somewhere.

Awareness of overseas voting rules for expats is just one of a huge range of points to consider when relocating, because relocation is not just a physical experience. It often involves a significant personal, emotional and psychological shift.

This is where the personalised relocation and orientation services that Parental Choice offers in APAC and EMEA are so valuable. We can ensure that all the important (but perhaps not obvious) questions are asked, so that you can make the right decisions based on full information.

To discuss your, or your company’s relocation needs, please contact us for a confidential consultation.

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