Voting While Abroad
Voting assistance services of the Consular Section includes providing applications for voter registration, providing the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) for an absentee ballot request, and mailing these forms to the United States for Presidential Elections.
For the most up to date information on voting and to complete a Federal Post card application over the internet, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program web site.
Absentee Voting Information for U.S. Citizens Abroad
If you want to be able to vote while you are outside the United States, you should send a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election officials every year. It's easy to do - just go to www.FVAP.gov, the official U.S. Government website for overseas absentee voting information, to start the process.
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY ELECTIONS:The first presidential primary elections take place in January 2012. Plan to submit a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) as early as possible in 2012 so your local election officials have time to send you an absentee ballot, and you have time to vote and return it.
Absentee Voting Basics
Absentee voting is a simple four or five step process.
- You send in a completed FPCA to your local election officials
- They confirm your eligibility to vote, and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots
- They send you a blank absentee ballot by mail and make it available electronically
- You complete the ballot and send it back before the ballot receipt deadline
- If your ballot fails to arrive, use the emergency federal write-in ballot to vote.
Registration/Absentee Ballot Request
To vote from abroad, you have to register to vote with local election officials in your state of legal (voting) residence, AND every year you should ask to receive absentee ballots. You can use one form to do both - the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). Submit a new FPCA every time you move, change your address, change your e-mail, or change your name.
To complete and address the form, go to either the FVAP or the Overseas Vote Foundation websites, where an online assistant walks you through the process. You can also pick up an FPCA and a copy of your state's requirements from the U.S. embassy consular section.
Receiving Your Blank Absentee Ballot
The law now requires states to send ballots to overseas citizens 45 days before the general election, except under emergency circumstances. The timeframe for mailing out ballots for other elections is shorter. The law also requires states to make your blank ballots available electronically either by fax, e-mail, or internet download. On the FPCA, there is space for you to let local officials know how you would like to receive your ballots. Depending on your state and your status abroad, you may receive absentee ballots for all elections, or just ballots for elections for federal offices only.
Voting and Returning Your Ballot
Complete your ballot carefully and legibly, and return it to your local election officials before your state's ballot receipt deadline. Overseas voters have a number of options for returning voted ballots:
- Local mail - If you are living in an area with efficient mail service to the United States, you can affix sufficient international postage to your ballot envelope and mail it promptly.
- U.S. Embassy Pouch/Army Postal Service (APO/FPO) - Official election ballot envelopes that bear postage-paid markings can be returned via U.S. diplomatic pouch or Military Postal Service free of charge. You can also print out and use an envelope with postage-paid markings that is available on the FVAP web site. NOTE: You'll need to submit your ballot in person to the U.S. Embassy.
- Fax, E-mail, or Internet - A number of states now allow the return of voted ballots via electronic means. Consult the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Voting Assistance Guide for electronic transmission options for your state.
- Express Courier Service - If time is short or local mail is unreliable, you can use professional courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS. Check the Overseas Vote Foundation website for information about reduced rates for voters.
FedEx does not deliver to P.O. boxes. For additional information about voting overseas, please visit our travel information website.