Votes for Life


An estimated 3.4 million British Citizens living overseas are currently unable to vote in the UK (disenfranchised). This is due to the 15-year restriction (those who left the UK more than 15 years ago are ineligible to vote in the UK). Voting in Austria at local level is at best also discretionary for British Nationals.

Change is on the way, with the Elections Act 2022 receiving Royal Ascent on 28th April 2022, which will mean the removal of the 15-year restriction.

What will change?

Changes are still needed to the secondary legislation associated with Overseas voters to remove the 15-year restriction; other issues being worked on relate to how it will actually work in practice (e.g. verifying eligibility)

When will I be able to vote?

As stated previously, detailed secondary legislation is required to implement many aspects of the new provisions. It is expected this will be brought forward in 2023 (probably Autumn/Winter 2023) with newly eligible overseas voters able to register to vote in January 2024.

What restrictions will apply?

British citizens who never registered to vote before leaving the UK are also currently ineligible to be overseas voters regardless of how long they have lived overseas. There is an exception for those who left as minors before being able to register – they may use their parent or guardian’s registration address.

How and where will I be able to vote?

You will be able to vote for candidates at the last constituency where you were resident in the UK. First you will need to be listed on the Overseas Voters Register (not currently available).

British in Europe

British in Europe has been awarded a grant by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to work on advocacy and some communication work related to this. BiE has already had meetings with the UK Government Department for Levelling Up (the department responsible for the drafting and adoption of the secondary legislation). A voting rights survey has also been produced and hopefully results will be available shortly. 

Useful Links

This version: 20 March 2023

Was this content useful?