Democrats Abroad Letter to the U.S. Department of Education About Federal Student Loan Relief Application Form Inaccessible for Americans Abroad

Below is a copy of the letter Democrats Abroad sent to the Department of Education and Financial Student Aid about the Federal Student Loan Relief application form being inaccessible for Americans Abroad. Democrats Abroad strongly encourages Americans abroad impacted to contact their Members of Congress.

Click here to download a pdf of the letter.

Read more

Applications for student loan relief are now open!

Early reports confirm that the Department of Education's application form page is blocked outside of the U.S..

In order for Americans abroad to apply for the student loan relief online right now, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Use a VPN to access the online form. Click here to follow simple instructions on how to enable a U.S. VPN on your computer. More secure options include ProtonVPN (free) and PrivateInternetAccess (paid).*
  2. Once the VPN is enabled, go to the student loan relief website by clicking here or copy and paste this link: https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application
  3. Filling in the form requires a U.S. phone number. You can use a family or friend's U.S. phone number or set up a virtual U.S. phone number. Some free and paid options to set up a U.S. phone number outside the U.S. are available by clicking on this link.

Democrats Abroad have reported these issues to government officials and they're aware of the problems and they're working on fixing it, but we do not know how long it will take to fix. In the meantime, you can follow these instructions for how to access and submit the form online.

For the time being, the application is online only in English and Spanish. A paper application will be available later when you'll be able to mail or fax.

As a result of a court order from a group of Republicans, Federal Student Aid is temporarily blocked from processing debt discharges. Application forms are still open, so you are encouraged to apply. Applications will be processed as soon as possible. The news on this is changing quickly right now, so we recommend you periodically check back here for updates. If you've not yet sent your absentee ballot back to the U.S. for the November 8th election, please do so ASAP. Overseas mail delivery is slow, please opt for email ballot if your state allows. For more info on how to return your ballot click here.

What can you do to help us get these problems fixed sooner rather than later?

  1. Report your application form error message using this quick form: https://demsabroad.typeform.com/to/DGPna1tS 
  2. Call your Members of Congress and tell them to remove the block and requirement for a U.S. phone number on the student loan relief application form by clicking here. Then email us at [email protected] to let us know that you contacted your Members of Congress.

Not sure if you qualify for the federal student loan relief or how to get it?

Watch the Student Loan Relief for Americans Abroad webinar to find out if you qualify:

Click here to download the slides from the webinar.

Spot the scams

Click here to read from the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice about spotting student loan debt relief scams. Remember, no one will ever ask you to pay for student loan debt relief.

* Any information you submit using a 3rd party software can subject your personal information to being sold and use is at your own risk. Democrats Abroad does not endorse or recommend any VPN companies or software. No liability is accepted by Democrats Abroad.

Last update: Saturday, October 22, 2022 4:04pm EDT

 


Voting from Abroad 101

Voting in the November 8 midterms elections is the best tool you have to make your voice heard on important issues, from climate change to bodily autonomy to election administration. If you haven’t requested your ballot, or you’re unsure if you’ve requested one, follow the three easy steps below.

Also, spread the word about voting to your family, friends, and co-workers. Let them know that you voted and that if they’re a U.S. or dual citizen, they should, too!

Step 1: Request your ballot

Head to www.votefromabroad.org, your one-stop-shop for registering to vote and requesting your overseas absentee ballot. There, you’ll complete and submit your Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), the form overseas voters like you use to request ballots. The website will help you fill out the FPCA and tell you exactly where to send it. In most cases, you can submit it right then and there electronically!

If you’re not registered to vote or need to change where you’re registered, don’t worry: The FPCA doubles as a voter registration form. You’ll register at the address where you most recently lived in the United States.

Pro tip: On the FPCA form, mark that you want to receive your ballot by email. That way, you'll get your ballot quickly and avoid snail-mail delays.

Step 2: Receive and vote your ballot

Once you’ve got your ballot, carefully read the instructions and fill it out as soon as possible. You’ll probably want to vote for all the offices listed on the ballot, especially at the state and local levels— where tons of decisions that impact our future are being made. A Google search of the candidates or ballotopedia.org are great ways to find out where they stand on issues important to you, as is reading news coverage of the races in which you’ll be voting.

Pro tip: Make sure you’ve signed everywhere required, used the right color pen, and put the right envelope inside of the other (if returning voted ballot by postal mail). Each state, and sometimes even county, has different requirements. Human error is a top reason overseas absentee ballots get rejected, so it’s worth taking some extra time to read the instructions and do it right. If you have questions, we're here to help!

Step 3: Return your completed ballot

  • It is now too late to use the US Embassy pouch service!
  • Check return times for regular mail services before using.
  • If possible, please use a private courier service. See country discounts below. 

After you’ve completed your ballot, return it right away. Some states allow overseas voters to return their voted ballots through secure electronic means — like an upload portal, email, or even fax (yes, fax!) — but many require it to be sent by postal mail. You can check your state’s rules and deadlines at www.votefromabroad.org.

If you have to return your ballot by postal mail, you’ll want to make sure you’ve put the correct postage and recipient address on the envelope (the latter will be included with your ballot instructions). If time’s running short, you can also use a courier such as DHL, UPS, or FedEx, many countries have arranged for a discount – see the list below. 

If you vote in one of the following states, we also have ballot return guides to help you get your ballot back: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Pro tip: Return your voted ballot within 48 hours of receiving it, especially if you have to return it by postal mail. Voting early will not only save you stress and money, it will give you enough time to confirm that your ballot made it and will be counted. Late arrival is another top reason absentee ballots are rejected. Don’t let it happen to you.

And just like that, you’ll have voted from abroad in the November midterm elections!  

Votes from abroad may have proved decisive in the 2020 election outcome — now, with your help, we’re ready to make an even bigger difference in 2022!


Here are some resources to help

Need one-on-one help? A live voter assistant is just a Zoom away! Click in to ZoomTheVote, hosted and staffed by experienced VoteFromAbroad voter helpers, from anywhere in the world. Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon-4pm EDT, Saturdays from 4am-6am EDT, and Sundays from 11am-3pm EDT. Link to join is here: https://qrco.de/bbh0zg

Voting questions? Check out our FAQs or write to us at [email protected] 

What to know about voting in your state. Go to www.votefromabroad.org/states for detailed information on your state's deadlines, how to send in your registration/ballot request/ballot return, contact information for local election officials, and links to state websites to confirm registration and see sample ballots. You can also find the link to track your ballot at www.votefromabroad.org/states.

In which states can the ballot only be returned by mail? You must return your voted ballot by postal mail if you vote in the following states: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Please don't wait to return your ballot — international mail takes time! 

 

Haven’t received your ballot?

If you requested to receive your ballot by postal mail, you should have likely received it by now (they started being sent to voters on Sept 24).

If you requested to receive your ballot electronically, please double check your spam and junk folders.

If you still can’t find your ballot, please do the following immediately:

  1. Submit a new ballot request form via www.votefromabroad.org. Please submit the request electronically, if possible, and on the form, mark that you would like to receive your ballot by email. Doing this will expedite the process.
  2. AND, if you vote in a postal mail return state (see above), vote and return a Federal Absentee Write-in Ballot, also known as a FWAB or “Backup Ballot.” Details on the Backup Ballot can be found here: https://www.votefromabroad.org/faqs/BB1.

Please note that even if you vote and return a Backup Ballot, you should still vote and return your official ballot once you receive it. If both your official voted ballot and Backup Ballot reach your local election office in time, the official ballot will be counted and the Backup Ballot will be voided. If only the Backup Ballot arrives, that will be counted as your vote.

Need to use a courier service? Call or email your local election office in the United States to check out the best address to use, and then check out courier solutions. Some couriers have provided discounts for some countries for mail return to the U.S. 

Special deals for Courier services:

Austria-All voters get 20% off ballot return with DHL with code USA20
Canada-Democrats Abroad members get 50% off ballot return with UPS
Czech Republic-All voters get 20% off mail return with DHL with code US20
Estonia-All voters get 28% off ballot return with DHL with promo code USA22
Germany- All voters get 10% off ballot return with DHL with code USA10
Hungary-All voters get 30% off ballot return with DHL with code USA30 until October 31st
Ireland-All voters get 20% off ballot return when using code USA20 at a physical DHL location
Israel-All voters get a 17% DHL discount when following instructions in this link
Italy-All voters get 20% off ballot return with DHL when using code USA20 at a physical DHL location
Poland-All voters get 10% off ballot return with DHL with code USA10
Lithuania-All voters get 20% off ballot return with DHL with code USA20
Spain-All voters get 20% off ballot return with DHL with code USA2022
Turkey-All voters get 20% off ballot return with DHL with code USATURKEY20
UK-All voters get 10% off ballot return with DHL when using code USA10

From Argentina to Vietnam, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at information specific to your country of residence including courier service discounts and more. 

Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Caribbean Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Not Listed?  

Asia Pacific: Australia , China , Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Not Listed?

Europe, Middle East & Africa: Africa Committee, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland , Israel, Italy, Kenya , Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Not Listed?

 

Have a technical question? Take a look at these videos and PDF’s to find out how-to scan a ballot, fold a New York ballot, use VPN to access blocked U.S. websites, photograph your signature, send your ballot by post, get the fax transmission cover sheet, and fax your ballot using your phone with fax.plusefax.com or other "email to fax solutions" option.

Do you vote in one of the following states? We also have ballot return guides to help you get your ballot back to: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Thank you for voting!


Democrats Deliver: Student Loan Relief is Here!

Last week, President Biden delivered on his 2020 campaign promise to provide welcome relief to the estimated 43 million Americans weighed down by the twin burdens of predatory student loan practices and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The plan provides for debt cancellation of up to $10,000 for borrowers making under $125,000 a year, with recipients of Pell Grants qualifying for up to $20,000. Nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year. In parallel, the ongoing pause on federal loan repayment has been extended through the end of 2022. 

The effects for individual recipients are expected to be life-changing and the advancement in racial equity significant. In addition to immediate relief, the three-part plan also changes the terms of federal student loans going forward. Among other measures, monthly payments will be capped at 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income (down from 10%), and institutions of higher education will be held to new standards of accountability for rising tuition costs.

Democrats Abroad is thrilled with this most recent example of Democrats delivering real, material improvement to the lives of the American people. Overseas U.S. citizens who want to find out more about the plan and how they might qualify for debt relief are encouraged to attend our webinar on Thursday, September 15. And don’t forget to request your ballot for November’s midterm elections at www.votefromabroad.org today so that we can keep moving our country forward!


Statement on the 19th Amendment

 

Today is Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Passed in 1920, the 19th Amendment prohibits States and the Federal Government from denying people the right to vote on the basis of sex. Bella Abzug, (D- NY), one of the DA Global Women’s Caucus founders, introduced the resolution in Congress, which designated August 26 as Women's Equality Day in 1973.

102 years later, we mark Equality Day not so much with celebration as with a sober assessment of the emergency we find ourselves in. The reality is that American women have fewer rights today than they did 10 years ago. Gains made by generations of women are systematically being legislated away from us. And the roadmap for the Republicans is clear as they openly gerrymander districts, change voting laws, and institute policies and practices to disenfranchise women, minorities, people with disabilities and – last but not least – us, the overseas voters.

https://assets.nationbuilder.com/democratsabroad/pages/30804/attachments/original/1661267246/GWCGOTVToolkitv.png
Right now, we have a narrow window of opportunity to turn the tide and stop the theft of our rights, our autonomy, and our dignity. The DA GWC has assembled a list of simple actions that
anyone can take – the Get Out the Vote for Equality Toolkit - to help increase voter turnout and protect women's equality. 

Join us in commemorating and celebrating this struggle by helping to mobilize our base for the ‘22 midterms so that we can all continue to exercise our right to vote. With nearly 9 million Americans living abroad, we have the power to make impactful and lasting changes this election. As the Republicans pursue tactics to undermine the democratic practice of free and fair elections, we will fight back by voting in numbers and sending the loud and clear message that we cannot and will not be silenced. Americans across the entire social, political, economic, and generational spectrum must set their differences aside and unite to use the power of our vote in numbers that will overwhelm the elaborate voter suppression blockade erected against us.

November marks the pivotal moment in deciding our future. We have the chance to ensure that pro-choice and pro-equality candidates win their seats, and WE NEED EVERYONE ON BOARD.
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Overseas Voters: Register to vote in your State to receive your absentee ballot here.
  2.  Help us Get Out the Vote, by contacting everyone you know who is eligible to vote and making sure they are ready to cast their ballot as well.
  3.  Reach out to your friends and family – check out our GOTV Equality toolkit here.


With your help, we can win in November!

We stand on the shoulders of generations of women who marched, fought, and died for our rights. We will not let them down.

 

Ann Hesse, Chair, DA Global Women’s Caucus
Candice Kerestan, International Chair, Democrats Abroad


Statement Celebrating the Inflation Reduction Act

Democrats Abroad is grateful to Democratic U.S. Senators for passing the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a bill that will have a positive impact on our world for generations to come. This legislation – a historic achievement and true cause for celebration – will ensure that big corporations and the wealthiest 1% pay their fair share, lower the cost of Medicare drug prices, and authorize an unprecedented investment of $369 billion in measures to promote renewable energy and mitigate climate change. Not a single Republican U.S. Senator voted for the bill

With this legislation, Democrats have risen to the moment and brought hope to our planet. The United States, the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally, is now on its way to meeting our climate commitments and leading by example.  

As another summer of devastating climate catastrophes rages around the globe, the Inflation Reduction Act will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing renewable and clean energy sources to replace fossil fuels, significantly lowering production costs of wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries for electric cars and incentivizing the private sector to employ wind, solar, and geothermally generated energy. The bill also provides tax incentives for private citizens to install solar panels and heat pumps in their homes and to buy electric vehicles. In coordination with President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, the construction of charging stations will be ramped up across the entire country, including rural areas.  

The Inflation Reduction Act allocates $27 billion for a “green bank” to invest in public-private partnerships that cut emissions. $8 billion will specifically be directed to disadvantaged communities, to further the cause of environmental justice, and $2 billion has been allocated for further research (e.g. fusion and high-energy physics). Most emissions reductions are anticipated in the power and infrastructure sectors, with carbon capture expected to increase 13-fold. 

It is hard to overstate the magnitude of this legislative achievement. We must continue this work – to bridge the remaining 10% gap in emissions commitments made by the Biden administration, to address environmental justice issues more broadly, to completely phase out fossil fuels, to block drilling on federal lands and waters, and to continue healthcare and economic reform. There is only one way to do it: by (re-)electing Democratic leaders in November. Please register and request your ballot at www.votefromabroad.org – and make sure your friends and family, at home and abroad, have a plan to vote as well. 

To keep up to date and active with Democrats Abroad efforts to tackle climate change, please join our Environment and Climate Crisis Council by clicking here. If you are not able to donate your time, please consider donating to Democrats Abroad today. $20.22 will help keep Congress – and the planet – blue. Thank you very much for your continued support of our organization. 

In solidarity and hope,  

Dana Freling, Environment & Climate Crisis Council Chair

Candice Kerestan, International Chair


Progress to Repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision

Democrats Abroad is encouraged by the advancement of the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R.82) which would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). WEP has unfairly and disproportionately impacted Americans abroad, particularly seniors who paid into Social Security and deserve to receive a fair amount in retirement.  Some beneficiaries only learn of WEP after they have retired, and the reduced benefits substantially affect their financial standing in later years.

Read more

Write Your Alma Mater Campaign

Democrats Abroad invites YOU to participate in an alumni outreach campaign to help encourage democratic participation by students studying abroad during the Fall 2022 semester. Our goal is to have members reach out to their alma mater(s) and make sure they’re providing accurate and current information about registering to vote to students while they're abroad.

Here’s How to Get Started

  • Find your alma mater's study abroad office 

The easiest way to do this is simply search “[name of university] + Study Abroad Office” – there will be a contact person or email listed on the website; this will be your target! 

  • Personalize the email template (see below)

We encourage participants to personalize the introductory portion of the email template below. It is important that we show the universities that it is personally important to their alumni that students studying abroad exercise their democratic rights. The more personal, the more likely a response!

  • Send the email from a personal email account and wait for a response!

Should you have any questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, please forward them to [email protected] and a voter assistance volunteer will help.

  • Let us know what happens next! 

Please record whatever you hear back at www.democratsabroad.org/almamaterfeedback. If you don’t hear anything after a week has passed, please reach out to the contact again. If you still do not receive a reply, let us know that, too!

 

Email Template

Dear [Contact Name/Study Abroad Office],

I am [author’s name], an [alumnus/alumna] of [UNIVERSITY/COLLEGE, Class of XXXX], currently living in [CITY, COUNTRY]. From my own experience, I know how difficult it can be for U.S. citizens to vote while living or studying abroad, which is why I work with a group of trained volunteers who help U.S. citizens abroad register to vote and request and submit their absentee ballots.

As an [alumnus/alumna], I want to do all I can to support current students participating in our democracy wherever they may be in the world. Could you tell me what information, if any, students going abroad receive about voting while outside the country?

I’ve added a brief informative statement below, in case it is of any use! We are also happy to provide posters in a PDF format that can be printed out for distribution.

Thank you for your support of our democracy.

With kind regards,

[author’s name]

 

Useful Information on Voting from Abroad

Voting while studying abroad can seem like a challenge, but there are several ways to ensure that students are able to exercise their democratic rights by being registered and able to vote in federal, state, and local elections!

Registering or updating your registration to vote from abroad differs from voting as an in-state absentee voter. Registering to vote from abroad guarantees the right to receive ballots 45 days before elections and via email rather than by post (a requirement in many states). This greatly eases the return process and any potential delays due to the international postal system.

Requesting an overseas ballot only takes a few minutes. Voters simply need to fill out the one page Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). We encourage voters to use our platform https://students.votefromabroad.org, a user-friendly English and Spanish language non-partisan service that offers FAQs as well as state-by-state registration guides. The site also offers a photo signature option that allows most voters to submit the form via their phone or computer without having to print it out. Alternatively, students can fill out the FPCA at www.fvap.gov and then print, sign and email or mail a copy of the form to their local election official.

Volunteers at https://students.votefromabroad.org are encouraged to train as Voting Assistance Officers through the Federal Voting Assistance Program, run by the U.S. government. This is the same training that military officers and members of the Foreign Service undergo, ensuring that our volunteers are well-equipped to assist students studying abroad with their questions or any problems that may arise.

For questions regarding voting from abroad or about the Vote From Abroad platform, please do not hesitate to contact us at: [email protected].


We Can & We Must Fight Back

MUNICH–The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is an abhorrent and unprecedented assault on our fundamental human rights. Today is a dark day, a hard day in American history. 

Stripped of protections and freedoms the past 50 years had granted us, we now confront a new, grim reality where our health, marriages, and basic bodily autonomy are on the chopping block. Make no mistake: the radical Republican Party has no intention of stopping with Roe

We can and we must fight back. We must show up to the polls this November — and make sure that every single American we know has a plan to vote, too.  

In this moment of despair, let us not forget that the power still resides with us – and that the overwhelming majority of Americans support the freedoms Roe upheld. A net gain of only two more U.S. Senators will allow for abortion rights to be codified at the federal level. The America we want, need, and deserve is within reach, and Democrats Abroad is committed to making it a reality.

We still have each other — and our resolve to fight for our basic rights. Let’s do this.


Enough Is Enough

Democrats Abroad joins our nation as it grieves the latest round of senseless shootings with innocent lives taken. We extend our deepest sympathy to all those impacted by these tragic events and resolve to fight every day for a country where everyone feels safe. However, it is not enough to be horrified by these events. We must act.

In the past ten days, the United States has had 17 mass shootings with 43 killed and 79 injured. Two of them – in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas – made global headlines. In both cases, the 18-year-old suspects were able to acquire assault weapons – legally.

Democrats Abroad deplores Republican lawmakers’ failure to enact legislation that would protect the people of America. Why do we continue to allow opponents of gun control to stand in the way of legislation that would prevent innocent lives being taken during their daily routines? Americans need to break that cycle – and legislators who will prioritize our children’s lives over money from the gun lobby. It’s time we acknowledge that what we are doing isn’t working.

Americans around the globe can do more than offering heartache, thoughts and prayers. We owe families more than condolences. Globally, we are more than six million strong, and we must vote to change the laws that allow these attacks to happen. We must elect Democrats who will stand up for the American people, against the gun lobby, and for sensible gun legislation.

Stand together. Take action. 

  • Call your Congressional Representative and US Senators to demand they take action on guns and gun violence. Look up their contact details here.
  • Commit to asking five Americans living abroad to request their ballot at VoteFromAbroad.org.
  • Show your support on National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend on June 3-5. Find out more at wearorange.org.
  • Like and share our voting information on social media, including on our Democrats Abroad Facebook page and Vote from Abroad Facebook page.
  • Be the margin of victory! Our record of bringing home the overseas vote has proven to make the difference in close races. Consider a donation to support our efforts at democratsabroad.org/donate.

Press inquiries can be directed to [email protected].