Many of those recently surveyed by the likes of banks and newspapers in the UK about why they might consider living abroad cite the state of the UK as one of the major reasons behind any decisions to expatriate. It seems that Brits are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the state of the UK economy, housing market, cost of living and government.
If you’re of a similar mind and are actively planning your escape overseas you shouldn’t lose your right to have a say in the way the UK is governed, because after all, Britain is a democracy so as Brits we can at least vote a government in or out of power. In this article we examine the facts about living abroad and your right to vote.
If you’re currently living in the UK you need to make sure you are registered to vote – you should contact the electoral registration office at your local council if you are in any doubt and they will check. As long as you are registered to vote, once you move abroad you can keep this right for up to 15 years. You just tell the electoral registration office that you’re relocating and they will send you the relevant forms to fill in.
If you’ve moved to live abroad already and have forgotten to register, don’t panic; because your right remains for 15 years you can still get in touch with the local council where you were last likely to have been registered and tell them about your situation. They will do everything they can to ensure your right is restored to you properly.
In terms of which elections you can vote in, you can vote in general and European elections but not local council elections in the UK.
If you are not actually registered to vote in the UK and you expatriate you cannot then become eligible to vote. Unless you actually moved abroad with your family before you were 18 years of age and your legal guardians or parents were registered to vote, in which case, as long as you let the UK within the last 15 years you can contact the council where your guardians/parents were last registered and get on the electoral register yourself.
Once you’re living abroad and you have registered as an overseas voter you then have to choose whether you want to vote by post or by proxy. If you want to register to vote by post your voting form will be sent to you about a week before polling day meaning you have to be able to receive it, fill it in and send it back to arrive within the week. If you’re living a bit further afield and think that this is unlikely, you’ll have to register to vote by proxy. This means you choose someone to vote for you on your behalf.
Finally, if you’ve been living abroad for many years or have been an expat and not registered for postal or proxy voting whilst living abroad, you need to get back on the electoral register when you return to the UK. As long as you are 16 years or over you can register, (although you won’t be allowed to vote until you are 18), and you can do so either by filling in the form your local council will most probably send you when you move into a new address in the UK, or by contacting the council offices directly.
As much as we like to complain about the state of the UK, us Brits are in a privileged position because we can vote our government and MPs in and out of office – don’t take this position for granted, make sure you maintain your right to vote even if you are living abroad.