polling station sign on a bench
polling station sign on a bench

Registering To Vote As A Student: Everything You Need To Know

Your guide to registering to vote as a student in the next General Election.

With the next General Election taking place on Thursday 4th July, you’ll need to make sure you’re registered to vote before you cast your ballot. It’s really simple, and only takes about 5 minutes. 

You won’t be able to take part in the election if you haven’t registered on the electoral roll before the deadline. Turnout rate is historically lowest for the youngest eligible voters, which includes a lot of students. It can be confusing to navigate voting when you live away from home, so we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about registering to vote as a student. 

From postal vote applications to registration deadlines to voting when you’ve moved back home for summer, we’ve answered the most common issues with voting as a student. Breaking down barriers to voting means you can make your voice heard in the next election. 

In this article:

Am I registered to vote?

If you’re not sure if you’re already registered to vote, you can contact your local Electoral Registration Office to find out. You can check both your uni address and your parents address as it’s possible to be registered in two places at once. One third of universities in the UK use auto-enrolment to make it easier for students to vote, so there’s a chance you’re already registered. 

If you’re not on the electoral roll, you can register online or ask your local Electoral Registration Office to send a paper form out to you. 

It’s a good idea to be on the electoral register, apart from casting your ballot, it can also improve your credit score as banks can use the Electoral Roll to verify your identity. So if you need to take out a loan, a new phone contract, or a rental contract, it all helps. 

Can I register to vote at my parents address?

You can register to vote at your parents address as well as your uni address. As the 4th July is a transition period for a lot of students between home and uni, it’s a good idea to register to vote using both addresses. You still only get one vote, as it’s illegal to vote in two places, but it means you’ll be able to cast your ballot even if you’re between places. 

If you’re looking to move to a new address, then it’s worth staying on using your parents’ address until election day, so you know you’ll be able to vote, even if you move house. 

How to apply for a postal vote in the UK

If you think you’ll be away from home or uni for the 4th July (or it’s just more convenient for you), you can apply for a postal vote so you still get your say. 

You’ll need to be registered to vote BEFORE you apply for a postal vote, so get this done first and then you have until Wednesday 19th June to apply for your postal vote. 

It’s a quick and easy form, but you’ll need a few things before you apply:

  • Your address where you’re registering to vote
  • Identity documents, for example your National Insurance number or your passport
  • The date of the election or referendum if you only want to do a one-off postal vote

You’ll also need to upload your signature, handwritten in black ink on plain white paper.

There’s always a chance you might be asked for extra identity documents, so it’s worth having a few to hand. 

What if I’m on holiday during the election?

If you’re on holiday during the election, you can apply for a postal vote or you can apply for a proxy vote. This is when you have someone else vote on your behalf if you can’t get to the polling station. The deadline for applying for a proxy vote is Wednesday 26th June

Before you apply, make sure you ask for your proxy’s permission. Similar to the postal vote, you’ll need a few things:

  • Identity documents like your National Insurance number, birth certificate or passport
  • Your proxy’s contact details
  • The address where your proxy is registered to vote
  • A photo of your handwritten signature in blank ink on white paper

How old do I have to be to vote in the General Election?

You have to be 18 to vote in a General Election. So if you were born on or before the 4th July 2006, you are eligible to vote. 

If your birthday is near to the election and you’re worried you won’t be able to register to vote in time, don’t panic. Registering to vote starts from the age of 16 in England or Northern Ireland. If you live in Scotland or Wales, you can register to vote when you’re 14. So even if you’re not 18 yet, you can still register.

When is the deadline to register to vote?

The deadline to register to vote for the General Election is midnight on Tuesday 18th June 2024. 

Do I need photo ID?

Yes, you’ll need photo ID to be able to vote in the General Election, so don’t forget to bring this with you when you head to the polling station. This includes:

  • A UK passport
  • UK driving licence, full or provisional
  • Blue badge
  • A PASS card

The government has a full list of acceptable photo IDs on their website.

If you don’t have a form of photo ID, then you can get a FREE CitizenCard by signing the NUS petition and using code NUS at checkout. CitizenCards are a valid form of photo ID for voting in England, Wales and Scotland. 

You won’t be able to use your student ID card issued by your university or college as photo ID for UK elections, so NUS have teamed up with CitizenCard to break down the barriers for students and young people voting with their free offer. 

The deadline for registering for a free CitizenCard to vote in the General Election is Thursday 20th June.

Do I have to be a British citizen to vote in the General Election?

You don’t have to be a British citizen to vote in the General Election. 

There are lots of different rules depending on the country, but you can find out whether you’re allowed to vote in the upcoming election on Can I Vote by entering your nationality and which country you live in. 

Can I vote if I’m an international student?

If you’re an international student, you may be able to vote in the upcoming election. 

British, Irish and some participating Commonwealth countries are all eligible to vote if they’re a resident in the UK. You can use the Can I Vote tool to find out if you’re able to take part in the upcoming election.