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Voting in U.S. Elections Explained: Can I Vote as a U.S. Citizen Born Abroad?

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If you are a U.S. citizen born abroad, you may be wondering if you can vote in U.S. elections. Good on you for asking this question! There are some important nuances to know about the voting rights of U.S. citizens especially if you were born outside of the U.S. and live abroad.

At Overseas Vote and U.S. Vote Foundation, we aim to assist you exercise your voting rights. Here, we'll explain whether you qualify to vote in the U.S. elections and how you can register to vote if you're a U.S. citizen born abroad and continuing to live abroad.
 

Who is a Foreign-Born U.S. Citizen?

A U.S. foreign-born citizen is a U.S. citizen who was born abroad / overseas. These citizens obtain their U.S. citizenship either through birth or a naturalization process.

As a U.S. citizen born overseas, your right to vote depends on two key factors:

  1. Which state your U.S. parent/s moved from and have their own voting residence address

  2. Whether you've ever lived for a time and established residency in the U.S.

The voting rights of citizens abroad and uniformed services members away from their voting residence are defined in the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). As a federal law, UOCAVA gives voting eligible U.S. citizens the right to vote from outside of the U.S. at the federal level. Voting at the federal level means voting for President, Vice President, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. All members of these bodies have offices in the federal government situated in Washington D.C. While voting at the state and local level is not part of UOCAVA voting rights, some states, at their own discretion, do offer the full ballot to their citizens resident abroad.

Unfortunately, the UOCAVA law did not codify the right to vote to the children born to overseas citizens abroad, and over time, this fact has grown to be a major issue for the U.S. overseas voting population.

We have good news: 38 States and DC extend voting rights to US Citizens born abroad who have not established residency in the U.S.


How Can I Vote as a U.S. Citizen Born Abroad?

Case 1: I’ve Acquired U.S. Citizenship through Birth and Have Lived and Established Residency in the U.S.

As a legitimate child of at least one U.S. citizen parent, you can become a U.S. citizen at birth, even if you're born abroad. There are specific requirements if your parents were not married when you were born. Please check our blog on the issue Can I Vote As a Dual Citizen if that applies to you.

As a U.S. citizen abroad, you can vote in U.S. federal elections. For a more detailed discussion of various types of elections, visit our blog, What Are the Different Types of Elections

If you moved abroad from the U.S. and established residency while you were there, you can continue to vote as an overseas citizen in the state from which you moved. There are no restrictions regarding from which state you moved. If you live temporarily or permanently abroad, you should register to vote and request your overseas absentee ballot every calendar year and use the last U.S. address where you've either resided and/or were registered to vote. It does not matter if the property that you list still exists.

To keep track of all deadlines and special elections, create your Voter Account and sign up for Voter Alerts provided by the U.S. Vote Foundation to stay on top of things. The process is easy, and every vote counts! Go to our Voter Help Desk if you have questions. 
 

Case 2: I’ve Acquired U.S. Citizenship through Birth But Have Never Lived in the U.S.

If you're a U.S. citizen born abroad but have never lived in the U.S., you may also be able to vote, depending on the state(s) in which your U.S. parent(s) vote. If at least one of your U.S. parents comes from one of the following states, you can use your parent(s)' voting residence address to register and request your overseas absentee ballot. You will be voting in your parent(s)' former state and jurisdiction.

As of 2024, the states that allow U.S. citizens born abroad who never resided in the U.S. to use their parent's or legal guardian's last U.S. address as their own voting address (link to our own FAQ instead please https://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/content/what-state-do-i-vote-if-i-live-abroad) include:

  • Alaska (Federal Elections only)

  • Arizona

  • California (only if you have not registered or voted in another state)

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut (Federal Elections only)

  • Delaware (Federal Elections only)

  • District of Columbia

  • Georgia

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois (all elections for the children of Active Duty parent/legal guardian; Federal Elections only for civilian overseas U.S. citizens)

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Maine

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan (only if you have not registered or voted in another state)

  • Minnesota (Federal Elections only)

  • Montana (Federal and State Elections only if you have not registered or voted in another state)

  • Nebraska (Federal and State Elections only if you have not registered or voted in another state)

  • Nevada (Federal and State Elections only if you have not registered or voted in another state)

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • New Mexico

  • New York (Federal Elections only)

  • North Carolina  

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oklahoma

  • Oregon (only if you intend to reside in Oregon and your parent, legal guardian, or spouse is an overseas voter)

  • Rhode Island (Federal Elections only)

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota (Federal and State Elections only if you have not registered or voted in another state)

  • Tennessee

  • Utah (Federal Elections only)

  • Vermont

  • Virginia (Federal and State Elections only if you have not registered or voted in another state)

  • Washington

  • West Virginia

  • Wisconsin (Federal Elections only)

If your state is not listed, please check with your local election official to determine if you qualify as a UOCAVA voter.

If you live temporarily or permanently abroad, you should register annually to vote from abroad. To keep track of all deadlines and special elections, create your Voter Account and sign up for Voter Alerts provided by the U.S. Vote Foundation to stay on top of things. The process is easy, and every vote counts! Go to our Voter Help Desk if you have questions. 

If you move back to the U.S., you can use your new U.S. address to register to vote domestically.


Case 3: I’ve Acquired U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization

If you acquired your U.S. citizenship through naturalization, you had to go through a rigorous process that involves meeting permanent residency requirements, exhibiting proficiency in English, and understanding U.S. history and government. Once you become a U.S. citizen, you can register to vote. Use the last U.S. address where you lived and established residency. If you presently live abroad, use your last U.S. address before you moved. That should not be a temporary address or visit, rather, the last address of your last home where you lived and established residency.

To keep track of all deadlines and special elections, create your Voter Account and sign up for Voter Alerts provided by the U.S. Vote Foundation to stay on top of things. The process is easy, and every vote counts! Go to our Voter Help Desk if you have questions. 
 

Which Elections Can I Vote In?

As a U.S. citizen voting under the protections of UOCAVA, you qualify to vote in federal elections.

What Protections Do I Have As an Overseas Voter? 
 

Will voting from abroad affect my tax status? 

That is a common question and a misconception that gets in the way of many overseas voters and their voting. Please do not let that happen to you! Read more about voting and taxes.

All in all, voting in U.S. elections is easy whether you're a U.S. citizen born or living abroad. You must fulfill certain requirements, like being a U.S. citizen, 18 years old or older, and satisfying residency requirements. But the process is modernized and efficient. Overseas Vote and our parent, U.S. Vote Foundation, are here to help you exercise your voting rights.
 

Get Started: Overseas Voter Registration and Ballot Request

 

 

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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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