Can international students vote?

UK politics – it’s just keeps on giving. In case you haven’t heard there will be another General Election in the UK in December. Brexit is the main reason why a General Election is taking place. Other issues that are a high priority at this election are how much money should be allocated healthcare? Should the highest earners pay more tax to fund essential services? Should funding for education be increased? All of these issues will affect current and future international students in the UK so make sure you have a say by voting.

When will the General Election take place?

The General Election will take place on Thursday December 12th, the day before the end of term.


As an international student living in the UK, can I vote?

As an international student you may be thinking that elections are not relevant to you and you’re not able to vote. However, depending on nationality and citizenship you might be surprised to find out that you are in fact eligible to vote in the UK.To vote in a General Election you should:

  • be at least 18 years old or above
  • have British citizenship
  • or have Irish citizenship
  • or have Commonwealth citizenship who has valid immigration permission/Leave to Remain for the UK/does not need it for the UK/who is resident in the UK. (This includes citizens of the Channel Islands (British Crown Dependencies), the Isle of Man and British Overseas Territories)
  • If you are former resident of Hong Kong who holds a British Dependent Territories, British National Overseas (BNO) or British Overseas passport, you are also eligible to vote
  • Citizens of Cyprus and Malta are eligible to vote
  • Citizens of Fiji and Zimbabwe retain their voting rights, depsite their countries having being suspended from the Commonwealth


Why should I vote?

Good question. Here are our top three reasons why you should vote if you are eligible to do so:

1) Not many international students are able to make their voice count in UK elections. It’s a rare perk of being a Commonwealth National in the UK and we highly recommend you take advantage of this fact.

2) You may have heard of something called “Brexit”, which has dominated the news for the last few years. Brexit will have a lasting, and in our opinion, negative impact on the UK’s relations with other EU countries, UK universities and on most aspects of UK life, such as  healthcare, the economy and agriculture. The UK’s Labour Party have described this election as a “once in a generation” vote. Given that this election will have such profound changes for your generation as well as future generations we feel that it is of utmost importance that anyone who can vote does so.

3) The student vote has the potential to profoundly change UK politics. We think you should be part of this.



So, can I just turn up and vote on December 12th?

Er no. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t just turn up at any Polling Station in the UK to vote on December 12th. There is a process that you need to go through to register to vote, and you can only vote at a designated polling station (an official place where you can vote) or via a postal vote.

First of all, in order to vote you will need to be on the Electoral Register. This is a register held by each local authority of people who are eligible to vote and the property they are living in.


How can I check if I am already on the Electoral Register?

Contact your local Electoral Services Office to ask if you are on the Electoral Register to find out. If you aren’t you can register to vote here.

Brighton Electoral Office

Eastbourne Electoral Office

If you don’t live in Brighton or Eastbourne please click here to search for your nearest Electoral Office.


I registered to vote last year. I have a new address for this academic year, do I need to re-register to vote?

Yes you do. If you have changed address for this academic year you will need to register again. Click here to re-register to vote.


What information do you need to register to vote?

You’ll need your National Insurance Number (if you have one). If you don’t have a National Insurance Number you’ll need to provide a reason why (e.g. you are financially supported by your family overseas), and submit your email address and your local Electoral Office will contact you to request a copy of your ID, such as a passport.

Click here to register to vote.


Is there a deadline to register to vote?

Yes there is. It’s midnight on Tuesday November 26th.

Beware! It can take longer for overseas nationals to register to vote so our advice is to DO IT NOW!

Please do not wait until the last minute to do this. There is always a last minute surge and the online voter registration system will most likely crash. You will also need to to allow more time for your National Insurance Number or ID to be checked by your local Electoral Office. If you have assignments and deadlines coming up, be organised and get this out of the way so it doesn’t interfere with your studies.

Click here to register to vote.


I am an international student eligible to vote but I won’t be here on the election date? Can I still vote?

As long as you are registered to vote you will be able to vote by post. Please be aware you will need to allow extra time for this paperwork to go through so please ensure you register to vote, as well as for your postal vote application to be completed.

You can apply for your postal vote here.


Where can I register to vote?

Here’s the link to register to vote:


general elections

Every five years parliamentary elections take place, which is often referred to as a “general election”, where you vote on who becomes the next Prime Minster. This is where the voting population (the “electorate”) select their Member of Parliament (“MP”) for their local constituency or area. The MP usually represents a political party and the main ones are, the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Deomcrats and the Green party.

In this case our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has called a General Election for different reasons. Our Prime Minister is unable to get his Brexit deal approved by the House of Commons, and as as result he has had to ask for an extension to previously agreed deadline of 31st October. His solution is to call a General Election to try and create a majority for his political party (the Conservative Party) in the Houses of Commons, which would allow his deal to be passed.

Here’s how the election works: the UK has been divided into constituencies. Each constituency in the UK is allocated a seat in the House of Commons in the UK government. The candidate with the most votes becomes MP for their constituency. In turn, the party who wins the most seats in the House of Commons wins the election and the leader of that party becomes Prime Minister.

Brighton & Hove has three constituencies which are currently split between the Greens, Labour and the Conservatives: Pavilion (Green Party MP), Kemptown (Conservative Party MP) and Hove (Labour Party MP). Eastbourne currently has a Liberal Democrat MP.

You can register to vote here


local elections

There are also local elections that take place every four years. These elections are for local councillors, but do not all take place at the same time. To be eligible to vote you need to:

  • be at least 18 years old or above
  • have British citizenship
  • or Irish citizenship
  • or Commonwealth citizenship who has valid immigration permission for the UK/does not need it for the UK/who is resident in the UK. (This includes citizens of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and British Overseas Territories)
  • or be a European citizen who is resident in the UK. (Brexit may change this but at the time of writing, no decisions have been made by the UK government)



British Overseas TerritoriesCommonwealthCrown DependencieselectionsEU studentsinternational studentsregister to votevote

Sarah Digon • May 22, 2017

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