A Complete Guide for Foreigners to vote in the UK General Elections
The right to choose a Nation’s leader rightfully belongs to its citizens and this is why most countries reserve the right to vote, solely for its citizens. However, some nations like the UK extend this right to qualifying foreign residents. So if you are wondering whether or not, you can vote in the UK’s possible snap elections, then don’t worry, we have covered it all up for you.
Ever since the 2016 referendum, it is pretty clear that the UK would eventually severe itself from the Europe Union (EU), as the majority have voted in favour of Brexit. If you are working or studying in the UK then you definitely know about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to exit the EU by the end of October 2019. Also, there are rumours about a snap poll, just in case, there is a roadblock.
After all, Brexit has been delayed for quite some time as the Bill seems to be pending before the UK parliament, awaiting a nod from the MPs. So if you are curious about your rights as a foreigner working or studying in the UK and aren’t quite sure of whether you can vote or register to vote, then here’s some useful information. We shall now break this down on a case to case basis, so whether you are a member of the EU or hail from one of the Commonwealth Nations, we’ve covered it all up for you.
Can Foreigners vote in the UK?
London’s strong economy attracts people from all over the world, and if you are in London or any other part of the UK, then depending on a certain set of criteria you may or may not have the right to vote. The UK confers the right to register to vote, to three categories of people — UK or Irish citizens, or to citizens resident in the UK, hailing from qualifying commonwealth nations or from the EU.
The minimum age requirement to cast your vote in UK’s General Elections is 18 years. Although in some cases you may be permitted to register to vote before you turn 18, you still need to wait until you turn 18 years old. Now that may sound confusing, so to clear the fog, let us now discuss this further, on a case to case basis.
EU Citizens Resident in the UK
The recent elections in the UK were held amid confusion and chaos, as thousands of foreigners from the EU region were not permitted to vote. According to the concerned authorities in the UK, those who hailed from the EU region had to fulfil two major criteria in order to be able to vote in the UK. The first one was that the foreigner must be registered to vote, which may seem pretty obvious, but the other one was quite a surprise.
The second criteria required foreign residents in the UK, from the EU countries to fill out European Parliament voter registration form. If you have never heard of it, then let's break it down for you. This form declares that you choose to vote in the UK only, hence you are required to make a tough choice between voting either in the UK or in your homeland. In other words, if you are an immigrant from the EU region (except for British, Irish, Cypriot and Maltese citizens), you need to give up the right to vote in your home country. Now declaring that on the European Parliament voter registration form is the only way you’d be permitted to vote as an immigrant from the EU region. However, those hailing from Cyprus and Malta can heave a sigh of relief because although from the EU, these citizens retain their right to vote in all the UK elections.
At this point, it is worth noting that between 1991 and 2003, the UK had an average inflow of around 61,000 immigrants from the EU region. However, this number grew exponentially and according to ‘The Migration Observatory’, the UK now has over 3.8 million EU citizens, who are presently living in the UK. Previously, the UK Authorities had granted immigrants from the EU region, the right to vote. This was in pursuance of a reciprocal treaty. However, this didn’t go well with the locals and was one of the major reasons why most people voted in favour of Brexit.
Foreigners from the Commonwealth Nations
Foreigners resident in the UK, but originally from a Commonwealth Nation can vote in the UK Elections provided they have the leave to stay in the UK or do not require such leave in order to reside in the UK. The Commonwealth nations is a congregation of several nations from across the world. It largely includes countries which were at some point in time, considered to be “British Subjects”.
If you are a foreigner resident in the UK and come from a commonwealth nation that has been suspended from the list, then you need not worry. Citizens from suspended commonwealth nations may continue to vote. Unless the UK Parliament passes a Bill to delete your country of origin from the list of Commonwealth nations, you can continue to enjoy the same rights as those from Commonwealth nations.
British Citizens living abroad
If you have been a British citizen at any point in time, but are currently living in another country, then you may still qualify to vote in the UK. The UK legislation permits its citizens to vote for a period of 15 years, despite living out of the UK. So, if you really want to make a difference, then you can be sure that the legislations don’t restrict you from doing your bit.
While there are rumours in the air about a possible snap election, it is important for you to know where you stand and what exactly are you entitled to. However, if you are in the middle of relocating to your country of origin, in order to avoid the aftermaths of Brexit, then get the most out of your savings by transferring it via Small World. This would ensure that you save up on transaction fees, and avail real-time exchange rates.