Votes for Expat Brits
   Home      Why can't they vote where they live?
In general, voting rights are attached to nationality, rather than residence.
So countries don’t on the whole grant the right to vote to foreign residents.
There is an exception to this practice within the EU, where the Maastricht treaty
allows European citizens living in a member state which is not their country of
origin to vote where they live in municipal and European Parliament elections.
Additionally, the UK allows resident Irish and Commonwealth citizens to vote,
while excluding actual British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15
years. Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands also allow
resident foreign nationals to vote, under certain conditions.
But in pretty much the whole of the rest of the world, the voting booths in
national elections remain firmly closed to expats from other countries – a
situation which is, frankly, highly unlikely to change.




Voting by expats in the national elections of their host country would be
very difficult to achieve, since most countries have followed a different
– that of allowing, and indeed encouraging, their own citizens to vote while living abroad.

It wouldn’t be very easy in practice, either. Expats often do not have the language skills
necessary to follow what is going on in the political life oftheir host country. And those who
are expats for professional reasons may be moved on to another country before they can
even begin to get to grips with host-country politics.

OK, an expat who is able to engage with the political life of his or her host country could apply
to become a national of that country – which would not necessarily be granted. And in many
cases, including Spain, which has a very large British expat community, that would mean giving
up one’s British nationality. Few, if any, of us would be prepared to do that.

The fact remains that expats’ long-term concerns lie firmly with their country of origin, much
more than with the country where they happen to live. And with the wealth of modern
communication channels now available worldwide, including satellite radio and TV and the
Internet, expats can follow what’s going on at home just as easily from Brisbane or Buenos
Aires as they could if they still lived in Battersea or Bangor.