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How to vote as an UK expat

Even when you’re living abroad, voting in UK elections is still every bit as important as if you’re a UK resident. Government policies such as tax, personal allowance and foreign policy will all still affect you, so make sure you exercise your right to vote.

There’s still an all too common misconception that once you’ve moved abroad, you lose your right to vote. Under UK law, you would only lose your right to vote if you’ve lived overseas for more than 15 years. But unless that’s the case, you can register as an overseas voter and doing it online means it’s now easier than ever before.

There’s estimated to be around 5.5 million expats living abroad of which, as of 2014, only around 20,000 were registered to vote. That works out at a mere 0.6% of those that could have voted. Until 2015, it wasn’t even possible to register to vote online. If you factor in the lack of campaign materials distributed amongst expats and relatively little exposure to British media, then it’s not hard to see why expats aren’t the most mobile of voters.

There are many issues within the British government that directly affect expats, the most notable recently being the Brexit debate, so it is of vital importance that if you can vote, you should vote.

There is also the issue of the removal of non-residents personal allowance. This could see the weekly income of those living on the state pension drop by as much as £23 per week. As it currently stands at £113.10, the application of 20% income tax would reduce this to just £90.48 to live on. And with approximately 20% of British expats estimated to be pensioners, this is something of a hot button issue amongst potential voters. And there are still 2 million expats who’ve lived abroad for more than 15 years and are ineligible to vote.

Thankfully, registering to vote online is an extremely straightforward process, and takes around 5 minutes. You only need your previous address and your National Insurance number (if you have one), and simply follow the instructions on-screen.

So it’s not difficult to flex your voting muscle as an expat, and with such big issues on the table as the continuing Brexit saga and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there’s never been a better time to get into politics…