The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is responsible for administering the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). This Act requires that states and territories allow most U.S. citizens to register and vote absentee in elections for Federal office.
Persons eligible to vote under this Act include adult U.S. Citizens who are:
- Members of the Uniformed Services (including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard)
- Members of the U.S. Merchant Marine
- Eligible family members of the above
- Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, and Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- U.S. citizens employed by the Federal Government residing outside the U.S.,
- All other private U.S. citizens residing outside the U.S.
Absentee voting and registration is accomplished through the use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which can be obtained from the ACS Unit of the Consular Section. The ACS Unit can also provide notarial services related to the FPCA at no charge.
Please visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) for further information. At this web site you can find the Voting Assistance Guide. The Guide provides information on the Federal Voting Assistance Program, including a chapter on State Absentee Registration and Voting Procedures, which gives the requirements, state-by-state, for voting and the procedures for filling out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). The site also has a list of primary dates in each state and other information of use to U.S. voters.
Frequently Asked Questions about Voting Overseas
Can I vote in a U.S. election if I live overseas?
Generally, all U.S. citizens 18 years or 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. In addition, all members of the Uniformed Services, their family members and members of the Merchant Marine and their family members, who are U.S. citizens, may vote absentee in Federal, state and local elections.
How do I apply for an absentee ballot?
The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) is accepted by all states and territories as an application for registration and for absentee ballot. It is postage free when placed in the U.S. mail. You may also send a written request for a ballot to your county, city, town or parish clerk. The on-line version of the FPCA (OFPCA) is available at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website, www.fvap.gov, but must be completed, printed out, signed, dated and placed in an envelope affixed with proper postage, and mailed to your Local Election Official. All States and Territories, with the exception of American Samoa, Guan and Ohio accept the OFPCA.
I would like to vote but don't know how. Where can I find assistance?
Specific information on applying for absentee registration and a ballot is contained in the Voting Assistance Guide. Voting Assistance Officers assigned to units of military installations and at each U.S. embassy or consulate have a copy of the Guide to assist you in completing your FPCA. U.S. citizen organizations overseas and many corporate offices of U.S. companies also have copies of the Guide to assist you. Members of the Uniformed Services and U.S. embassy/consulate personnel can obtain hard copies of the Guide through their normal distribution channels or by contacting their Service or Department of State Voting Action Officer. Other overseas citizens can request these materials by contacting the FVAP directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find PDF versions of the Guide as well as other voting related information and links on the FVAP website, http://www.fvap.gov
If I do not maintain a legal residence in the U.S., what is my "legal state of residence?"
Your “legal state of residence” for voting purposes is the state or territory where you last resided immediately prior to your departure from the United States. This right extends to overseas citizens even though they may not have property or other ties in their last state or territory of residence and their intent to return to that state or territory may be uncertain. When completing the residence section of the FPCA, be sure to enter the entire mailing address of your last residence, including street or rural route and number. This information is necessary to place you in the proper voting district, ward, precinct or parish. Family members of citizens residing overseas, who are U.S. citizens and who have never resided in the U.S., usually, if the state allows, claim one of their U.S. citizen parent’s legal state or territory of residence as their own. Check Chapter 3 of the Guide.
Do I have to be registered to vote absentee?
Registration requirements vary from state to state. States and territories allow the citizen to register and request an absentee ballot by submitting a single FPCA during the election year. If you are permanently registered you should submit an FPCA early in the election year. Consult Chapter 3 of the Voting Assistance Guide for specifics.
Where do I send my FPCA?
Chapter 3 of the Guide outlines absentee voting procedures for each state and territory. In your state or territory of legal voting residence under the heading of “Where to Send It” you will find a list of addresses for county and local election officials. These officials may need to contact you for further information, please provide an email address or fax number on the FPCA.
Must I submit a separate application for each election?
In all states and territories, one FPCA will secure for the applicant both primary and general election ballots for Federal offices for an entire calendar year. The Help America Vote Act of October 2002 has extended the effective period of the FPCA through two regularly scheduled general elections for federal office. However, due to the transient nature of many UOCAVA citizens, FVAP continues to recommend that each citizen submit an FPCA to their state of legal residence in January of each year and again each time there is a change in the citizens mailing address.
If I am required to have my FPCA or ballot notarized, how do I do it?
Generally, election materials may be witnessed or sworn to before a notary, U.S. Commissioned Officer, embassy or consular officer, or other officials authorized to administer oaths. Most states and territories do not require notarization of the FPCA or ballot; therefore, consult Chapter 3 of the Guide to determine your state or territory’s requirements. In all instances you must sign and date the FPCA.
When mailing an FPCA or other election materials to my state or territory, do I have to pay postage?
Generally, all election-related materials are mailed postage free from any APO or FPO mail facility, all U.S. embassies and consulates and any post office in the U.S. You must pay postage if the materials are mailed from a non-U.S. postal facility. The on-line version of the FPCA must be printed out, signed, dated and mailed in an envelope with proper postage affixed.
When is the best time to apply for an absentee ballot?
Generally, the FPCA used to request only a ballot should be received by election officials at least forty-five days before election day to allow ample time to process the request and mail the ballot. If applying for both registration and an absentee ballot, the FPCA may have to be mailed earlier. FVAP recommends submitting the FPCA in January of each year. Consult Chapter 3 of the Guide for further information on state or territorial registration deadlines. Be sure to notify your election official of any change to your address.
When should I receive my ballot?
Under normal circumstances, most states and territories begin mailing ballots to citizens 30-45 days before an election. If you have not received your ballot two weeks before the election, contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) Ombudsman Service to assist in determining when your ballot was mailed. Always execute and return your absentee ballot regardless of when you receive it. Court decisions sometimes require the counting of ballots voted by Election Day, but received late. See also Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot below.
What is an election for Federal office?
An election for Federal office is any general, special, runoff or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of selecting, nominating, or electing any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the United States Senate, Member of the United States House of Representatives, Delegates from the District of Columbia, Guam, Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, and Resident Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
What is the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) for overseas citizens?
Overseas citizens may be able to use a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) available through Voting Assistance Officers at military installations or at U.S. embassies/consulates. To be eligible for this ballot, a citizen must:
- be located overseas (including APO/FPO addresses).
Where can I obtain information on issues and positions taken by candidates?
In addition to reading U.S. news magazines and newspapers and surfing the internet, both Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad maintain overseas offices and have information about their candidates and issues. U.S. embassies and consulates can provide the local addresses or phone numbers for these organizations. Alternatively, the party organizations can be contacted by writing:
Republicans Abroad International
209 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
Phone: (202) 608-1423
Fax: (202) 608-1431
General Information E-mail: email@example.com
Voting Information E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can I find information on state and local issues while overseas?
Surf the Web for information! Alternatively, you can subscribe to hometown newspapers, contact friends and relatives for information on state and local issues or monitor Armed Forces Radio and Television Service broadcasts and other American news and entertainment programs throughout the world. In addition, the Department of Defense’s Voting Information Center (VIC) provides an avenue for information on candidates for citizens voting under the UOCAVA.
Will I be taxed by my last state or territory of residence if I vote absentee?
Exercising your right to vote in elections for Federal offices only, does not affect the determination of residence or domicile for purposes of any tax imposed under Federal, state, or local law. Voting in an election for Federal office only, may not be used as the sole basis to determine residency for the purpose of imposing state and local taxes. If you claim a particular state or territory as your residence and have other ties with that state or territory in addition to voting, then you may be liable for state and local taxation, depending upon the laws of that particular state or territory. Consult the Guide or a legal advisor for information on probable tax obligations.
Can I register or vote in person at the embassy or consulate?
At the present time, there are no provisions for in-person voting or on-site registration to be conducted at U.S. embassies or consulates. U.S. embassy and consular officials will assist U.S. citizens in completing FPCA forms for their state, witness or notarize FPCA forms and ballots (if required), and provide other absentee voting information. U.S. embassy and consulate locations serve also as a mailing point where FPCA forms and other election materials may be mailed back, postage paid, to your local voting jurisdiction in the U.S. where absentee registration and ballot requests are processed.