How to vote if you are living abroad

Voting abroad is not as cumbersome as you might think. It’s easy and a great way to make your voice heard.

Election results are not final until all postal votes have been counted — including votes from non-US residents, and those votes can determine an election. Click here for the tl;dr version.

How do I register if I live abroad?

You can register to vote on the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) using your old US address—your address in the state where you last lived—and mail it (or fax) it back to your local polling office. For San Diego, this is the Registrar of Voters, PO Box 85656. San Diego, CA, 92186-5656 or fax (858) 467-9670. Californians can also register online here.

You must provide a residential address in California to verify your eligibility to vote in that state. Your electoral office needs this to determine which offices and candidates you can vote for in order to send you the correct ballot.

You must select whether you would like to receive your ballot by mail, fax, or email on the FPCA form.

A stay is also valid if:

  • They no longer own any property or have any other connection to that state.
  • Her intention to return to this state is uncertain.
  • Your previous address is no longer a recognized residential address.
  • Voting in an election for federal office often cannot be used as the sole basis for determining residency for the purpose of collecting state and local taxes.

Note: If you don’t remember your last address, check old tax records, passports, or family correspondence. Sometimes electoral offices can help identify your address if you were previously registered.


The deadline to register to vote for the November 2022 general election is October 24, but you should register as early as possible to receive your ballot information in a timely manner.

It is recommended that a new FPCA form be completed each year or when you move house.

How do I enroll if I’m in the military and stationed overseas?

Military personnel and their spouses cannot vote in military installations and should follow the process outlined above. Likewise, US embassies and consulates are not voting centers, although they can help you with resources to register to vote.

Remember: The earlier you register, the more time the poll workers have to get your ballot papers to you in a timely manner.

How do I register to vote if I’ve never lived in the US?

This one is tricky. In some states, nonresident US citizens are eligible to vote.

A full list of states that allow citizens to vote by mail can be found here.

In California, “A U.S. citizen who has never been a resident of the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian who was last a resident of California is eligible to vote in California so long as the parent or legal guardian has not registered or voted in any other country state,” according to the Department of Defense.

You can follow these steps to register.

The deadline for registering to vote for the November 2022 general election is October 24.

Can voting from abroad affect my tax status?

It can. If you vote as a resident of a state, you may be subject to that state’s income tax. Some states, like California, have safe harbor laws for voters who live abroad but vote for local and state offices important to them. And these can protect you from having to pay additional income taxes.

Consult a tax professional for more information.

How do I get my ballot?

When you register to vote, you must provide a mailing address. It could be a PO Box or some other place where you can receive mail there.

If you have elected to receive your voting materials by fax or email, the Registrar will send all your voting information by fax or email.

How can I vote after I’m registered?

Once registered, you can vote as soon as you receive your ballot in the mail (or email/fax if you have chosen this option). For military personnel, the Office of the California Secretary of State recommends returning your ballots by October 1 if you are on a ship at sea, October 24 if you are stationed outside of the United States, and October 31 if They are based within the United States (but not in San Diego).

📬 By mail

Send your ballot back to:
electoral register
PO Box 85902
San Diego CA 92186-5902.
This is a different mailbox than the one used to return the voter registration.

Postal voting documents must be date-stamped no later than election day and received by the electoral register no later than seven days after the election.

📄 By fax

You can also fax your ballot (including a return envelope) to (858) 467-9670. You must also attach the Voter’s Oath form provided to waive your right to vote in confidence. This is in addition to the oath on your return envelope.

Faxed ballot papers must be received no later than 8:00 p.m. on election day.

💻 By email

While you have the option of receiving your voting materials by email, California law does not allow you to vote by email. You must return your ballot by fax or post.

How do I vote if I didn’t receive my ballot by the deadline?

If your ballot has not arrived within 30 days of the election, you can vote by submitting a replacement ballot using the Federal Write-in absentee ballot.

Your ballot has arrived after you cast your vote, you can still mark your ballot and send it back to the electoral roll. The ROV will only count your replacement mail-in ballot if the office has not received your ballot (or if the ballot is received after the deadline).

I made my choice, now what?

You can check the status of your ballot here:

Important ⚠

🗳️ Mail-in ballots are now being mailed to all active California-registered voters 8 Oct. The last day you can register to vote is 24 Oct. (If voters miss this deadline, they can still register and vote in person at any polling center.) 8 Nov is national election day, but many polling centers are open before election day. The polling center and drop-off points close at 8:00 p.m. on polling day.

Not sure who to vote for? Find voting guides with candidate and action information on the KPBS Voter Hub.

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