What to Know About Voting as a US Expat Living Abroad

Living Abroad and Voting as a US Expat

When it comes to living abroad as a US expat, there are quite a few implications to consider – and one of the most critical is your US tax obligation. However, with the upcoming Presidential election on November 8th, voting is another area of consideration for Americans living abroad.

The 2016 Election

Based on Greenback’s recent US Expat Opinion Survey, the impact US expats could have on the outcome of the election is a big deal – in fact, over 73% of expats surveyed said they plan to vote in the election. Assuming this is representative of the entire expat population of 9 million, this is nearly 6.6 million voters! With that said, US expats have a strong voice with a significant opportunity to be heard in the upcoming election. So, the big question that many US expats may have is: HOW do you vote while living overseas? Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know in order to cast your vote!

State Requirements

As a US citizen, you always have the right to vote in all elections, regardless of where you’re living at the time of the election. However, you’ll need to take note of the registration process for your state, as deadlines and procedures vary and change over time. You’ll need to request an absentee ballot form and send it in to the election office at your last place of residence in the US. You can obtain an absentee ballot through the Overseas Vote Foundation.

In some cases, as a US expat, you may be able to take advantage of early voting. Since a move can cause the voting process to be a bit more complicated, taking care of casting your vote early can give you time to fix any issues that could pop up. If you’re already a registered voter, complete a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) through the Federal Voting Assistance Program to receive your ballot as quickly as possible.

In the event you sent a ballot request but it doesn’t appear that you’ll receive it before your state’s deadline, you’ll want to request a federal write-in absentee ballot (FWAB) as a backup method.

Mail and Documentation Considerations

It’s important to make sure your mail forwarding to your new address is set up properly before you leave the US. In some cases, you might need to print out your voter registration form to fill out by hand, so make sure you have a printer handy!

It’s also a good idea to keep copies of your passport in several places (paper and electronic) – and do so before going abroad, if you haven’t moved yet. Keep track of your Social Security number, as you’ll need this for some voter registration forms. If a proof of citizenship or photo ID is required to accompany your ballot, a copy of your passport will usually suffice.

In some cases, you will be able to submit registration and ballots online. If you’re one of the lucky ones who have this option (again, it will vary by state), make sure you have good, reliable Internet!

Repatriating to the US

If you’ve decided to return to the States, be sure that you notify your local election office to provide them your updated mailing address. The earlier you do this, the better, since it’s an easy step to forget – and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to vote!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the logistics of voting while living overseas as a US expat, but just remember that it’s a civic duty of all Americans and everyone’s vote is important!

Planning a Move Overseas and Have Tax Questions?

Greenback can help. Our team of expat-expert CPAs and IRS Enrolled Agents are here to help you navigate the often-confusing nature of US expat taxes, so you can get back to your adventure abroad. Contact us today!