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Step-by-Step Guide to Overseas Voting

3 Basic Steps

There are 3 basic steps to the overseas absentee voting process. These steps are the same for eligible active duty military voters and their eligible dependents. 

  • Step 1: Generate and submit your form to your election office
  • Step 2: Receive your ballot and vote
  • Step 3: Return your voted ballot to your election office


In addition to this narrative description of how to vote, we encourage you to Create your Voter Journey Map through our new interactive tool on our site: 

Create Your Voter Journey Map

Here are the details for each step:

1 - Generate and submit your form to your election office.

  • Go to the Overseas Voter Registration and Ballot Request service at U.S. Vote Foundation to complete the form online. To complete to the Overseas Registration and Ballot Request form (FPCA) form, you’ll need:
    • Your US voting address. U.S. citizens living outside of the U.S. are only permitted to register and vote in the state and county where they last established residence (domicile) in the U.S. before moving outside of the country. This is your "voting residence address," and the address that defines your state and jurisdiction for voting. 

      If you are unsure of what address to use, see the question "What address should I use when registering to vote from overseas?" in the Address Questions section of our Voter Help Desk.
    • Your overseas address
    • Your email address
    • Your state’s required identification - options will be presented to you during the registration / request process. Usually these are:
      • last 4 digits of your social security number
      • a valid state driver's license
There are two options for submitting your form:

For states that allow signed forms to be submitted by email: 

  • Voters can sign and submit the form as an email attachment through U.S. Vote Foundation’s special Print-Sign-Email service (no printing or scanning required). U.S. Vote Foundation's ballot request process will automatically offer you this option, if it is allowed by your state.


For the 5 states that require receipt of your ballot request form by post

  • For states that require a return of your signed original ballot request on paper, you will need to download, print, sign and send the form by postal mail to the address provided in the instructions. These states are: AL, AR, CA, CT, and NY.
  • To see all options for your state to submit your form, go to the Voter Materials Transmission Options for your state. 
  • Note: During the form completion process, you will be asked how you would like to receive your blank ballot—as a paper ballot by post, or electronically, which usually requires that you print your ballot on paper before completing it.

You can create a Voter Account during the form generation process to:

  • Streamline future submissions.
  • Sign up for proactive Voter Alerts to stay informed about upcoming elections in your state.

Check to confirm that your ballot request was received and processed:

  • Allow a few weeks for processing of your form and then verify your registration status. You may be notified by your election official that your Voter Registration/Ballot Request form has been received. If not, check your Voter Registration online or contact your Local Election Office by phone or email.
  • Use our Ballot Tracking Chart to find the link to track the progress of your ballot.


2 - Receive your ballot and vote.

  • State officials are required to transmit requested absentee ballots to overseas voters no later than 45 days before an election, provided the request has been received by that date.
  • If you do not have your ballot by 30 days prior to the election, check your state’s Ballot Tracking system. If you still cannot locate your ballot, contact your Election Office to see if they can send you a replacement ballot online.
  • If your ballot cannot be obtained in time, use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.
  • If you requested to receive your ballot online, be prepared to print it.


3 - Return your ballot to your election office.

  • Read and carefully follow the instructions for voting and returning your ballot.
  • Check Voter Materials Transmission Options in your state to see all options for returning your ballot.
  • Signature: Follow the instructions to sign the ballot envelope (if you received a printed, paper ballot), or the attestation (if you received an online ballot and printed it yourself). Never sign the actual ballot page. Again, check the instructions.
  • If you have a note for your election official, do not write it on the ballot. Instead, write your note on a separate piece of paper and enclose it in the envelope with your ballot.


Voter Help Desk: 


Helpful things to know about the voting process for U.S. overseas citizen voters, and military absentee voters.

  • Same Process Nationwide: The federal overseas citizen and military absentee voting process is standardized across all states and territories, making it simple and consistent. 
  • Annual Form Filing: Complete and file a single form for overseas or military absentee Registration and Ballot Request each calendar year to maintain your voter status. 
  • Dual Form Function Makes it Efficient: The federal form has a dual function to register you as an overseas (or military absentee) voter and to request your absentee ballot. Historically this form is called the “Federal Post Card Application” (FPCA) because it was originally printed on card stock. The form continues to be referred to as an FPCA by election officials.
  • Form Availability and Acceptance: The Overseas Registration and Ballot Request form (FPCA) is available for completion online on the U.S. Vote Foundation website. All states and territories accept the FPCA form.
  • Completely Online Process in Most States: You can utilize the U.S. Vote Foundation’s Overseas Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request system for easy, online form completion and submission to your election office. 
  • Signed Paper Form Required in Some States: For AL, AR, CT, and NY voters, a signed, original form must be sent via postal mail. You can complete your form online and download it for printing using U.S. Vote Foundation’s Overseas Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request system.  
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U.S. Vote Foundation offers complete voter services to all voter types including voters abroad and uniformed services voters and their families.

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