Voting as a migrant in the UK

Legal Updates

2024 is going to be a big year for parliamentary politics in the UK. There are local elections happening in May, and there is going to be a General Election too (though we don’t know when). 

At Right to Remain, we know that change does not always come from political processes, and we understand that people might feel disillusioned by mainstream politics. Although building power is much broader than parliamentary politics, it is important to understand how politics work if we want to change the system. 

There are different rules around who can vote in elections and across different regions of the UK. For this reason it can be confusing to work out how to get involved in political processes, for example, knowing  whether you can vote.

Many migrants can vote in certain elections and do not know that they are able to.

This short blog explains who can vote in which elections and provides links to where you can learn more.

Local elections

There are local elections happening in England on Thursday 2 May 2024. These include local government elections, elections for Mayoral candidates in some areas, and other positions. You can read more about the elections happening on this day here

You can vote in local elections if you are a British, Irish citizen, or if you have qualifying Commonwealth citizenship. See the section below for more information on Commonwealth citizenship and voting rights. 

The deadline to register to vote for the elections on Thursday 2 May is 11:59pm on Tuesday 16 April.

In England and Northern Ireland, EU citizens can vote in local elections. It is important to note that due to a law called the Elections Act, there will be some changes to the voting rights of EU citizens after the May 2024 local elections. To read more about the Elections Act, see here.

In Scotland and Wales, all residents can vote in local and devolved national elections. But there are no local elections happening in Scotland and Wales this year. 

Do I need photo ID?

Voters in England now need to show photo ID to vote at polling stations in some elections, including the local elections happening on Thursday 2 May.

If you do not have photo ID, you can apply for free vote ID. The deadline to apply for free voter ID for the elections on Thursday 2 May is 5pm on Wednesday 24 April.

General Election 

A General Election is when the voters of the country cast votes to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons.

The current government – the Conservative party – has the power to decide the date of the next general election, but it must be before 28 January 2025.

The rules around who can vote in a General Election are stricter than local elections. For example, EU citizens cannot vote in general elections. 

British, Irish, and Commonwealth citizens can vote in all elections, including general elections.

See here for a list of Commonwealth countries. 

Qualifying Commonwealth citizens must be resident in the UK and either have leave to remain in the UK or not require leave. Your leave to remain can be indefinite, or time limited. You can see if you have leave to remain in the UK on letters from the Home Office, or by using the Home Office’s tool to View and Prove Your Immigration Status.

You can also find more detail about voting if you are from a Commonwealth country on the Electoral Commission’s website.

Helpful Resources

Migrant Democracy Project is an organisation which is working to empower migrants in UK politics.

Migrant Democracy Project runs regular voter registration drives for people who are eligible to vote, and also campaign for the extension of the right to vote to all residents no matter where they are from. They are also training migrants to stand as political candidates in the future.

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