Long-Term British Expats Regain Right to Vote in U.K. Elections

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The 15-year limit on voting rights for British citizens living abroad is to be removed following a landmark change to voting law in the United Kingdom. Here’s what Brits living in Norway (or elsewhere) need to know.

Too little, too late? Thats the verdict of many British citizens living abroad following the vote in the British Parliament to remove the 15-year restriction on voting rights for expats.

Houses of Parliament in London.
All change for British citizens living in Norway long-term.

The change only applies to Parliamentary elections, not local elections. As many as 3.5 million more people should now have the right to vote in the next U.K. General Election, which should be held in late 2024 or early 2025.

Registered voters can also donate to political parties and campaigns, something that was also prohibited under the previous 15-year rule.

The lifting of the ban on voting rights for long-term foreign residents now brings the U.K. into line with much of Europe.

”Too Little, Too Late”?

However, not everyone is happy. The move comes after the Brexit referendum, in which millions of people who were significantly impacted by the decision were unable to have their say.

The law change also comes just weeks after the U.K. government announced it would tighten rules on British citizens bringing foreign spouses to Britain.

In December, the Home Office said it would lift the minimum income requirement for British citizens bringing their spouses to the U.K. from £18,600 to £38,700. Campaigners say this change will limit the options of many in the British diaspora.

Flags of Norway and the United Kingdom.

British in Europe, a campaign group representing more than 1 million British citizens living in Europe, said this change shows a lack of joined-up thinking in Westminster, adding it “effectively strips one of our few remaining citizenship rights — the right to return to live in the UK.”

Voter Registration for Brits Living Abroad

Now, it’s important to remember that having the right to vote is not the same thing as being able to vote.

In order to vote in British elections, you’ll need to be on the electoral register. This is easy to forget when you’ve been living in Norway for a while, where such things happen automatically.

If you’ve not voted in the U.K. recently, it’s likely you’ll have to reconfirm your registration. Even if you voted recently, you’ll probably still have to do this.

The elections office in my former U.K. constituency contacts me every year asking me to reconfirm the registration, although the online system overseas voters are now eligible to use will hopefully put a stop to this.

British citizens with residence abroad must register using their last U.K. address, which defines the constituency in which they vote. Visit the Register to Vote website to get the process started.

How to Vote from Abroad

When registering to vote, you are also able to arrange a postal or proxy vote. I highly recommend a proxy vote, which is when someone is able to vote on your behalf.

Why is this? Well, for the last U.K. General Election, my postal ballot paper arrived here in Norway after the results had been announced. Yes, really!

But, of course, if you are going to arrange a proxy vote, it has to be someone you trust to carry out your wishes.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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