Guide to the GHIC
The end of the Brexit transition period means that, with a few exceptions, the UK is no longer issuing the European Health Insurance card (EHIC), which gives access to state-provided healthcare in the EU.
The EHIC is being replaced with a new card – the UK Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC.
How does the GHIC work?
The GHIC works in the same way as the EHIC. It gives temporary visitors from the UK access to emergency medical care and routine care at the same cost as a resident of the EU country they are visiting. So if that care is free, the cardholder will get it free. If treatment is paid for, they will have to pay.
The GHIC can also cover routine maternity care (provided the person hasn’t travelled abroad specifically to give birth) and routine care for pre-existing conditions if necessary during a visit. Despite the name, the GHIC is only valid in the EU, not worldwide.
Is the GHIC for UK expats?
The GHIC is available to people who are ordinarily resident in the UK. So if you’re a UK national living abroad on a permanent basis, you probably won’t be able to use the GHIC or a UK-issued EHIC, but there are some exceptions.
Some UK nationals living abroad and EU nationals living in the UK will still be able apply for a new UK-issued EHIC. These include:
- UK students studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland who have been there since before 1 January 2021
- UK State Pensioners who have a registered S1 form or E121
- Workers posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by a UK employer, who have been there since before 1 January 2021
- Some dual UK/EU nationals
- EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizens who have been living in the UK since before 1 January 2021
For a full list, see the NHS website.
If you’re a UK citizen living in an EU country, you might be able to use an EHIC issued in that country for visits to other EU destinations.
See UK government advice for expats on accessing state-provided healthcare in the EU.
What countries does the GHIC cover?
The GHIC covers all EU countries, but, unlike the EHIC before Brexit, it doesn’t give cover in:
There are also some European countries that do not accept the EHIC or the GHIC:
- the Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
- the Isle of Man
- San Marino
- the Vatican
Is my EHIC still valid?
The EHIC is being phased out, so if you already have one it will be valid until its expiry date. EHICs last for up to 5 years. Old EHICs won’t give you cover in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland unless you were on a visit there before 1 January 2021.
Is the GHIC free?
It is absolutely free. If you are a UK or Irish citizen who lives in the UK, you can apply for a GHIC on the NHS website.
Avoid any sites that ask you to pay for a GHIC or EHIC.
Do I need other health insurance if I have a GHIC or EHIC?
The GHIC only gives access to state-provided healthcare. It also covers only ‘necessary healthcare’ that is healthcare that can’t wait until you’re back in the UK.
Travel insurance with medical cover gives access to private healthcare and can also cover repatriation if you need to be brought back to the UK or another home country.
International health insurance can give you access to private healthcare in multiple countries, whether you live or work abroad, or spend lots of time travelling.
Which is the best international health insurance?
The best international health insurance for you will depend on your situation and the level of cover you want. At William Russell, we provide a truly personalised service for expats with a range of health insurance policies that allow you to choose options to suit your lifestyle.