If you're a U.S. citizen living abroad and will be 18 years old or older on November 5, 2024, you have the right to vote in the 2024 federal elections and in every federal election.
As a U.S. citizen, you can register to vote from abroad while living, working, or traveling overseas by submitting one form, the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). It doesn't matter if you were registered to vote before you left the U.S. or how long you have lived outside the U.S. (including if you've never resided there).
Below you'll find an overview of the entire process of voting from Costa Rica including how to:
- Register and Request your Ballot
- Confirm and Receive your Ballot
- Vote and Return your Ballot
- Track your Ballot
Questions along the way? We’re here to help!
Contact [email protected] at any time with your questions on any stage of the process.
Before you begin ...
Please note! If your state requires you to mail in (vs fax or email) your FPCA or your voted ballot - check your state requirements here - then make sure to factor enough postal or courier time to meet the deadline. Ensure your voted ballot becomes a counted ballot. NOTE: postal mail delivery time between Costa Rica and the U.S. is currently about six weeks.
1. Register to vote and request your ballot
Visit www.votefromabroad.org to fill out your absentee ballot request, known as the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)— it only takes 10 minutes! If you're not registered to vote, the FPCA also serves as a voter registration form. Given the uncertainty surrounding postal service, we strongly encourage you to request that your absentee ballot be sent via email (there’s a checkbox for this on the form).
Watch a video on how to use the Vote from Abroad webpage. Watch Here
Every state is different! State deadlines and submission methods can be found here. Note: In most states, even if you are already registered, your local election office will not send your ballot to you unless you request it each election year using the Federal Post Card Application.
If you have any questions while filling out the form, you can also refer to Vote from Abroad's FAQ section here. Type your question in the website's chat box (red circle in the bottom right-hand corner), or send an email to [email protected].
2. Confirm your request has been accepted and that you will receive a ballot
Confirm your ballot
You should always verify with your local election official that you will be receiving a ballot. After you submit your Federal Post Card Application request form, call or email your local election official to verify they received it and will be sending a blank ballot to you. You can look up their contact info here.
The contact information is also listed in the instructions generated when you complete the FPCA on Vote from Abroad. Alternatively, most states provide a website where you can verify your voter status, although these sites can sometimes be outdated. You can find it by searching for "[state] verify voter registration."
Receive your ballot
All states must send absentee ballots to overseas voters no later than 45 days before a federal election (MOVE Act.) In 2024 the date is September 22, 2024.
---> Tip: For states requiring mail back ballots, you don't need to wait for ballots to come out on September 22. If you must mail back your ballot, we recommend you send in a Backup Ballot before that date.
The Backup Ballot (the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot or FWAB) is specifically for overseas voters who are concerned they won't receive their official ballot in time to return it by the deadline.
Details about the Backup Ballot can be found here
When it's time for ballots to come and you don't see yours, check your spam folder -- ballots can hide in there! If you still don't see it, please contact your local election official and confirm they sent your ballot out. You can look up your local election official’s contact info here.
If you don't have your ballot by October 1 and you must mail it back, we recommend you send in a Backup Ballot to make sure your vote gets to your state in time. Details about the Backup Ballot can be found here.
3. Vote and Return your ballot
Once you've received your ballot, make sure to read the instructions carefully on where to sign and how to fill-in bubbles / boxes or writing in a candidate name.
*** Return your ballot ASAP ***
Ballot return methods vary by state
Carefully check your state’s guidelines on return via online, email, postal mail and/or fax. Especially if your state only allows postal mail return — which is the case in many swing states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin — you must return your ballot as quickly as possible.
Check your state's exact ballot return methods here. If your state allows email or fax ballot returns, please use these options as they’re not subject to delay. Find more information on fax submission here.
---> Tip: New Jersey Voters - Please note that New Jersey allows for email or fax returns, but also requires that the ballot be sent by postal mail, too.
---> Tip: New York Voters - Here are instructions on How to fold the New York State General Election ballot.
Returning your ballot via mail
Private Carrier: If your state requires postal mail ballot return, the best options are:
- Take your ballot to a post office or a private mail carrier. Links below with full information: check the links to FeDex Costa Rica and DHL Costa Rica. NOTE: international courier services will not deliver to P.O. boxes.
- Costa Rican post offices also provide express international mail options. We recommend the Premium option which guarantees delivery date and allows tracking. Check Correos de Costa Rica.
Important: You must ask for a postmark or date stamp to be placed on the outer envelope when mailing using any service.
---> Tip: Check your state’s deadline for ballot return and count backwards to ensure timely delivery. The postmark date is important to ensure your ballot is counted!
---> Tip: Even with expedited courier services, ballots still take several days to get to the United States.
Returning your ballot via diplomatic pouch: Voters in Costa Rica can drop their ballots off in postage paid envelopes at the U.S. Embassy in San José.
Click here for a printable postage paid envelope. If you are not able to print the envelope, you can use a blank envelope with the following messages on the front:
OFFICIAL ABSENTEE BALLOTING MATERIAL – FIRST CLASS MAIL
U.S. Postage Paid 39 USC 3406
The embassy recommends coming and dropping off the ballots/registration cards in person. No appointment is needed and the ballot box is located at the entrance.
Delivering ballots to the embassy in person
- Go to the main entrance in the middle of the block (not the one over to the left where you go to get your passport renewed, etc.).
- Hours of service: 8 – 4:30, Monday – Friday (the embassy is closed during U.S. federal and Costa Rican holidays).
- To the left of the main entrance is a little office with dark windows.
- Approach the window and wave your hand.
- When the guard comes out, tell him you have your ballot or ballot request form for the election.
- He will ask you to remove any dark glasses or head covering. This is so the hidden security camera can take your picture.
- The officer inside will have a large clear plexiglass ballot box and will ask you to put the ballot in the slot one by one.
- All visitors to the Embassy are subject to security screening and you will not be permitted to bring electronic devices, including cell phones, inside the facility.
If you would like to mail your ballot or FPCA to the embassy, you can, though you will want to make sure you do it early enough so it gets back to the United States in time. We recommend using the courier service that Correos de Costa Rica offers, more commonly known as EMS. The address to send it to is below:
United States Embassy
Attention: ACS Unit
Frente al Centro Comercial del Oeste
Apartado 920-1200, Pavas
San Jose, Costa Rica
Please be aware that using the diplomatic pouch does not mean your ballot will arrive faster. It can take up to three weeks for the mail to reach its final destination. Therefore, we do not recommend using the diplomatic pouch after October 10th.
If you have any questions about using the diplomatic pouch, contact U.S. Embassy-San Jose’s Voting Assistance Officer at +506-2519-2590, or at [email protected].
---> Tip: Regardless of how you send in your ballot, remember that you (the voter) must be the one who places it in the mail (or hands it over to the diplomatic pouch). In some states, it is unlawful for any other person to handle your voted ballot, even if it is sealed.
---> Tip: And when filling out your ballot and packaging your ballot, remember to review the instructions carefully. Don't let human error spoil your ballot!
4. Track your ballot
Once you've mailed your ballot, follow up with your local election official to make sure that it arrived and will be counted. Please do not just assume that your ballot has made it! Nearly all states have online tracking services. To find your state's website, click here and scroll down to "Track Your Ballot". On the same web page, you can also look up your local election office's contact details and try contacting them directly. They are experiencing an influx of calls, so you will likely need to remain persistent to get through to someone.
Having trouble? Need help?
We understand that the voting process from abroad can be confusing — that's why we're here to help. Send an email to [email protected]