Registration and Voting Processes for Canadians Who Live Abroad
The information below relates to electors whose home is outside Canada. There are other registration and voting processes for electors whose home is in Canada and who happen to travel abroad. There is also a separate registration and voting process for Canadian Forces electors.
Registration in the International Register of Electors
As set out in the Special Voting Rules of the Canada Elections Act, Elections Canada maintains the International Register of Electors, a database containing the names of Canadian electors temporarily living outside Canada. To be included in the International Register of Electors, an elector whose home is abroad must be qualified to vote (i.e. a Canadian citizen at least 18 years old on election day) and must:
- have resided in Canada at any time before applying
- intend to return to Canada to reside
- have resided abroad for less than five consecutive years, or qualify for an exemption as described below
Exemptions from the five-year limit
The five-year limit does not apply to electors who meet one of these criteria:
- They are an employee of a federal or provincial public administration posted outside Canada – or they live with someone who is. –or–
- They are an employee, posted outside Canada, of an international organization of which Canada is a member and to which Canada contributes – or they live with someone who is. –or–
- They live with a member of the Canadian Forces posted outside Canada, or with a civilian employed outside Canada as a teacher or as administrative support staff in a Canadian Forces school.
Qualified electors may apply at any time to be added to the International Register. They must submit a completed Application for Registration and Special Ballot for Canadian Citizens Residing Outside Canada and provide copies of supporting documents that prove their identity. The special ballot application form is available online, at any Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate or by calling Elections Canada. Completed applications and copies of supporting documents should be mailed or faxed to Elections Canada in Ottawa.
The application form explains how electors can determine their address for voting purposes – this is the address in Canada that determines the electoral district for which the elector's vote will be counted. Once an elector's name is added to the International Register of Electors, their address for voting purposes cannot be changed until they acquire a new home in Canada.
Once an elector's application has been approved, we add their name to the International Register of Electors. Outside election periods, we send the elector a letter informing them that their name has been added. During elections, we simply send the elector a special ballot voting kit.
Voting by special ballot
When an election or referendum is called, we send special ballot voting kits to all eligible electors in the International Register of Electors, to the mailing address we have on file for them. This kit includes:
- a blank ballot on which the elector writes the name of the candidate of their choice (in an election period, candidates' names will be available on this website, by calling Elections Canada, or through Canadian diplomatic and consular offices)
- an unmarked inner envelope
- an outer envelope identifying the elector and their electoral district
- a declaration that the elector must sign and date, stating that their name is as shown on the envelope, and that they have not already voted and will not attempt to vote again in the current election
- a return envelope
- an instruction flyer
Application and voting deadlines during an election
If an election has been called, applications for the International Register must reach Elections Canada in Ottawa by 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) on the Tuesday before election day in order to qualify the elector to vote by special ballot in that election. Electors should apply as early as possible to allow time for the special ballot voting kit to be sent to them and for the marked ballot to reach Elections Canada by the election day deadline.
Marked ballots must reach Elections Canada in Ottawa by 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) on election day, or they will not be counted. They can be sent by postal mail or courier. They may also be submitted care of Canadian diplomatic and consular offices, but neither these offices nor Elections Canada can guarantee delivery times. (During by-elections, diplomatic and consular offices are not required by law to accept marked ballots.)
Removal from the International Register of Electors
Under the Canada Elections Act, electors whose home is abroad, who have lived abroad for five consecutive years or more, and who do not qualify for an exemption to the five-year limit cannot be included in the International Register of Electors and cannot vote by special ballot.
When our records indicate that an elector in the International Register of Electors has lived abroad for close to five consecutive years, we send a courtesy letter to alert them and ask if they qualify for an exemption to the five-year limit. If the elector can establish that they are exempt from the limit, we keep their name in the International Register. If they do not qualify for an exemption, we remove their name from the International Register and inform them of their voting options, as described below.
Electors living abroad who do not meet criteria to be in the International Register and vote by special ballot
Some Canadian citizens aged 18 and older who live abroad do not meet the Canada Elections Act criteria to be included in the International Register of Electors and to vote by special ballot. These electors may only exercise their right to vote in person at advance polls (held on the 10th, 9th and 7th days before election day) or at a regular poll on election day.
- Where to vote: Unless an elector has acquired a new place of residence in Canada, they will continue to exercise their right to vote at the advance or election day polling place associated with their last place of ordinary residence in Canada. (If the elector was previously registered in the International Register, they will vote at the polling place associated with the address for voting purposes that they provided to the Register.)
- After an election is called, polling place addresses are available online.
- Proof of identity and residence: The elector will be required to present proof of identity and residence corresponding to their last place of ordinary residence in Canada. (If the elector was previously registered in the International Register, they will provide proof of residence for the address for voting purposes that they had provided to the Register.)
- Registration: Electors voting in this manner should register on site when they vote at advance or election day polls.
We recognize that the opportunity to vote at an advance or election day poll may not be convenient options for the majority of voters living abroad. However, electors who wish to vote and who will be present in Canada during the days of advance polls or on election day are invited to contact us at 1-866-222-2565 in advance so that we can inform them about how to exercise their right to vote.