How to Vote While Abroad
Clau Castaneda, University Relations Associate
February 4, 2020

So you’ve unpacked your bags, shaken off those last remnants of jetlag, and are ready to dive into a carefree semester of breathtaking sights, drool-worthy food, and new friends. There’s nothing quite like saying goodbye to the responsibilities, expectations, and to-do lists of daily life in the United States for a semester, right? Not so fast!  There is one especially important expectation from home to fulfill, one particular responsibility to remember, one key item to throw at the top of your “to-do” list and then put a big, fat check mark in front of: voting in presidential primaries and federal and state elections!   

All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, and the office of the President of the United States will be up for election! And don’t forget the numerous other state, local elections, and presidential primaries that will also take place between now and November 2020.

The thought of sifting through all the information and forms sitting between you and your ballot while you are living abroad can feel overwhelming. The great news is that it is now easier than ever to vote while studying abroad, and your SAI onsite staff is here to help. Here are the super simple steps for making your vote count while abroad:


An image describing the 2 step process of voting abroad as a U.S. citizen. Step 1: Register and request absentee ballot. Step 2: Fill out and send in your ballot.

Screenshot of FVAP.Gove Website

1. Request your ballot through the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) 

An online voting assistant ( will walk you through the steps and deadlines specific to your state. For some states, the entire voting process can be done electronically, and for some states it can’t. If your state does not allow electronic delivery of ballots, use the address of your SAI onsite office as your delivery address when filling out your FPCA and we’ll make sure your ballot gets to you once it arrives.


Decorative black and white image of a ballot. All options are vote. One box is being checked by a pen.

2. Receive and complete your ballot

As easy as it sounds! States are required to send out ballots 45 days before the election. For most states, you can confirm your registration and ballot delivery online. If your ballot is mailed to a SAI onsite office, we will let you know when we receive it.


Image of a hand placing a paper with the words "vote" on it into a ballot box.

3. Return your completed ballot

If your state requires you to return paper voting forms or ballots by mail, you can do so free of charge at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Place your ballots in postage paid return envelopes or in envelopes bearing sufficient domestic U.S. postage, and address them to the relevant local election officials.


Image of a person wearing a blue shirt opening a red door. The red door has a sign that says: "Vote Here"

4. Vote in Presidential Primary

  • Republic Primary: Voting abroad in a Republican Primary requires you have completed your Federal Post Card Application to your local election official and receive and return your absentee ballot by your state’s deadline. 
  • Democratic Primary: The Democrats Abroad Global Presidential Primary runs from March 3 to March 10, 2020 at hundreds of voting centers around the world. Democrats Abroad will send delegates to the Democratic National Convention this July who reflect the results of the primary. Get more information on how to participate in the Global Presidential Primary at



5. Want more information

Contact the U.S. Embassy Voting Assistance Officer with any questions you may have.


Image of a hand holding an Aperol spritz in front of a beach scene in celebration

6. Good job! You voted!

Treat yo’self! Get back to enjoying your semester in Europe with a night out, a roommate dinner in, or that weekend trip you’ve been thinking of booking because, hey, the democratic process is as good a reason as any to celebrate!

The 2020 United States elections will be held on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

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