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 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)
- have resided in Canada at any time before applying
- confirm that they intend to return to Canada to reside by providing the date on which they intend to resume residence in Canada, and
- confirm that they have resided abroad for less than five consecutive years, or provide proof that they fall within one of these exceptions to the five-year rule:
- They are employed outside Canada in the federal public administration or the public service of a province – or live with someone who is;
- They are employed outside Canada by an international organization of which Canada is a member and to which Canada contributes – or live with someone who is; or
- They live with a member of the Canadian Forces or with a person who is employed outside Canada by the Canadian Forces as a teacher in, or as a member of the administrative support staff for, 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 any Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate)
- 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.)
For those who cannot vote by mail
Electors who are not eligible to vote by special ballot may vote in person (either at the advance polls or on election day) at the polling station corresponding to the address of their place of ordinary residence in Canada. In order to vote at the polls, an elector must provide proof of identity and proof of residence.