Long term expats gain right to vote in UK elections

By March 8, 2021 Government

As part of the 2021 budget recently announced by the Chancellor for the Exchequer, UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than fifteen years are set to regain the right to vote in UK elections.

While successive governments have been looking into and committing to change these laws for years, this proved to be a major legal victory for those campaigning for the right to vote in their home country for decades. 

The thresholds for who can vote in UK elections while not in residence of the country have shifted for years. Before 1985, UK citizens living abroad were simply unable to vote in general elections full stop. However, after the laws changed, they were able to do so for the first five years after the expatriated. 

This was extended to twenty years in 1989, however reduced to fifteen in 2002. 

Paragraph 2.41 of the Treasury Red Book claims that the government is providing £2.5 million to “remove the limit preventing British citizens who live overseas from voting after 15 years.”

Expats who have, indeed, lived abroad for over fifteen years will now be able to vote in general elections in the constituency in which they lived before leaving the UK. 

This decision comes off the back of a lengthy legal battle with campaigners whom have threatened to take their case to the UN as they believed their rights were being infringed upon. 

Legal rights to engage in democracy will always be an interesting, if not contentious topic. If you or anyone you know lives abroad and wants to learn more about your rights regarding voting or anything else, we’d love to hear from you. Our immigration solicitors are second to none and hold some of the most sought after accreditations in the sector so would be glad to advise you on any matter or concern. 

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