The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) covers all members of the Uniformed Services and their families as well as US citizens who reside overseas and assists them in exercising their right to vote.
Elections are managed individually by each of the 55 U.S. States and territories. However, the basic steps for absentee voting by overseas citizens are simple:
- Register to vote and request an absentee ballot by filling out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), and sending it to your state election official.
- The election official processes your FPCA and sends you an absentee ballot.
- Vote by returning the absentee ballot to the election official before the state’s voting deadline. A Back-up Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) may be used if your state’s voting deadline is less than 3 weeks away, and you have not received your official ballot.
The Department of State, via Embassies and Consulates assists citizens to exercise their right to vote. Voting Officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates:
- Provide citizens with information on the voting process;
- Provide information on upcoming election dates and contact information for state election offices;
- Notarize ballot materials;
- Mail properly sealed and addressed FPCAs and absentee ballots through the U.S. mail pouch; however, citizens are encouraged to submit their FPCAs and ballots via e-mail or fax to states that accept electronic submissions.
Note: U.S. pouch mail may take 6-8 weeks to reach the U.S. from Kyrgyzstan. Vote early if you plan to mail your ballot.
The Voting Assistance Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek is available to answer questions about absentee voting. You may send your questions via e-mail to VoteBishkek@state.gov or by telephone at 996 312 59-7000.
The official U.S. Government website for overseas absentee voting assistance is the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) at www.fvap.gov. Look for the red “Voters Start Here” box to start the voter registration and absentee ballot request process.
Other Helpful Overseas Voting Links:
- About the Absentee Voting Process for U.S. Citizens Abroad
- Download your FPCA today (PDF 321 KB)
- Downloadable Election Materials
- State Election Primary Dates
- State and Territories Election and Voter Verification websites
Do I have to be registered to vote absentee?
Registration requirements vary from State to State. Most States require you to complete an absentee ballot application to start the absentee voting process. FVAP encourages the use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to start the absentee voting process as it is standardized for use across all States and territories and will extend your eligibility to receive a ballot for all federal elections in which you are eligible, based on State-specific guidelines. The FPCA acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form.
Where do I send my Voter Registration/Absentee Ballot Request?
Your request form must be completed, printed, signed, dated and sent directly to your election official. Some States allow you to fax or email your FPCA to your election office. Your election official is required to contact you if your form is rejected, but States differ in notifying voters of a successful application. We encourage you to contact your election official to confirm that your FPCA was successfully processed.
When mailing election materials to my state or territory, do I have to pay postage?
The form is postage paid in U.S. mail, to include APO/FPO and diplomatic pouches. If using an online version, a postage paid envelope template can be downloaded online at FVAP.gov, which can then be brought to the Embassy for mailing to the U.S. free of charge.
If using foreign postal systems, put the correct amount of local postage on the front of the envelope, in the top right corner.
What is a postmark?
A postmark is an official Postal Service imprint applied on the address side of a stamped piece of mail. A postmark indicates the location and date the Postal Service accepted a piece of mail.
When is the best time to apply for an absentee ballot?
To ensure you continue to receive absentee ballots during your time away from your voting residence, be sure to submit a new FPCA every January and each time you change your address and at least 90 days prior to the election you want to vote in.
Must I submit a separate application for each election?
Under federal law, the FPCA (standard form SF 76) registers you to vote and requests absentee ballots for a minimum of all federal elections in the current calendar year. To ensure you continue to receive absentee ballots during your time away from your voting residence, be sure to submit a new FPCA every January and each time you change your address and at least 90 days prior to the election you want to vote in.
When should I receive my ballot?
Election officials are required to send your absentee ballot 45 days before an election for those who are registered and have requested a ballot. If you submit your FPCA within 45 days of the election, they will send your ballot as soon as possible, upon processing your form.
What happens if I do not receive a ballot from my local election office?
If you do not receive your absentee ballot from your State in time to return it to your election official to participate in the election, use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The FWAB (SF 186) serves as a backup ballot for UOCAVA citizens. The FWAB can be used in all States to vote for federal offices (President/Vice President, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative and Delegate or Resident Commissioner). If you receive your State absentee ballot after submitting the FWAB, vote and return it as well. If both your State ballot and your FWAB are received by the deadline, only one will be counted.
Questions for Overseas Citizens
Can I vote absentee?
As a U.S. citizen residing overseas, your absentee voting rights are covered. This means if you live outside your voting residence you can vote absentee in all federal elections.
A growing number of States now allow U.S. citizens who were born abroad but never resided in the U.S. to vote using the address where a parent or other relative is eligible to vote. Visit FVAP.gov to see a current list of States that allow these U.S. citizens to vote.
If I do not maintain a legal residence in the U.S., what is my “legal state of residence”?
Your legal State of residence is your address in the State in which you were last domiciled, immediately prior to leaving the United States.
This residence may remain valid even if:
You no longer own property or have other ties to that State.
Your intent to return to that State is uncertain.
Your previous address is no longer a recognized residential address.
How do I register to vote, or apply for an absentee ballot?
Registration requirements vary from State to State. FVAP encourages the use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to start the absentee voting process as it is standardized for use across all States and territories and will extend your eligibility to receive a ballot for all federal elections in which you are eligible based on State- specific guidelines. The FPCA acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form.
Can I register or vote in-person at the embassy or consulate?
No – U.S. elections are run at the State level and citizens must communicate directly with their election official to register, request a ballot and vote. Voting Assistance is available at most embassies and consulates to help in the completion of necessary forms. Be sure to account for submission and mail delivery time to ensure your forms are received by the State deadline.