More British Citizens Living Abroad can Register to Vote in the General Election

  • More British citizens living abroad now eligible to vote in a General Election following a change in legislation
  • Those that have previously lived in or been registered to vote in the UK now have the right to vote in Parliamentary elections, regardless of how long they have lived outside the UK

BRITISH citizens living abroad are now eligible to register to vote in UK general elections, regardless of how long they’ve been living outside the UK, after a new law removed the previous 15-year time limit.

Reading Borough Council is supporting an awareness raising campaign by the Electoral Commission and calling on residents to spread the word and tell friends and family living abroad to check if they are eligible.

Those that have previously lived in or been registered to vote in the UK, now have the right to vote in UK Parliamentary elections.

People can register online at and will need to confirm their personal information every three years. Anyone on a UK electoral register is also considered a permissible donor to UK political parties and campaigners.

A UK Parliamentary election has to be held by the end of January 2025, so overseas electors need to firstly register and then make an absent vote application.  An absent vote can be a proxy vote, appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf or a postal vote. Due to the tight deadlines, the Council recommends that overseas electors choose a proxy vote where possible. 

In England, proxy vote applications for individual elections, and some applications for indefinite proxies, can be made online at: The applications for indefinite proxies on disability, employment or education grounds require a paper application form to be returned to the Elections Office. All application forms can be found at

Should people wish to apply for a postal vote instead, they can do that online at

Michael Graham, Returning Officer at Reading Borough Council, said:

“This change means that more British citizens living abroad who previously lived in Reading may now be eligible to register to vote and vote in this area. If you know anyone who used to live locally and is now living abroad, please spread the word so they are aware of their rights.

“If they want to have their say at the next election, they need to be registered. It only takes five minutes and can be done online at It’s also now possible to apply online to vote by post or by proxy.”

The Government estimate that the abolishment of the 15-year rule could mean three million more British citizens could be eligible to vote. The Electoral Commission is working with partner organisations like local authorities to help spread the word.

Applicants will need to provide details of the address and time they were last registered or resident. Reading Borough Council must be able to verify an applicant’s identity and past connection to the area.

More information is available on the Electoral Commission’s website, along with a 'post code lookup tool' which helps voters living overseas find the contact details for their local authority, using the postcode of the last place they lived in the UK. Many voters living abroad choose to vote by post or proxy. Applications for absent votes can now also be done online.


Notes to editors

  • ONS research suggests that the most popular destination countries for British emigrants are Australia or New Zealand, US or Canada, and EU member countries.
  • Many voters living abroad choose to apply for absent votes. Applications to vote by post or proxy in Great Britain can now also be done online.
  • UK Parliament elections covers UK parliamentary general elections, UK parliamentary by-elections and recall petitions. Eligibility for other types of election has not changed.
  • The change is part of the UK Government’s Election Act, passed in 2022.
  • The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK.