The European Health Insurance Card (or EHIC) gives access to state-provided healthcare treatment in the EU. However, the end of the Brexit transition period means several changes to the relationship between the UK and EU, including this widely used European medical card. We’ve outlined the key changes and questions surrounding the EHIC, what these changes mean for British expats in the EU, and how to apply for healthcare abroad and renew your international medical insurance card.
Are European Health Insurance Cards still valid after Brexit in the UK?
If you already have an EHIC card (which lasts for up to 5 years) it will be valid until its expiry date. However, the end of the Brexit transition period meant that (with a few exceptions), the EHIC is being phased out and replaced with a new international medical insurance card – the UK Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC.
How do you renew your European Health Insurance card?
European Health Insurance Cards are not reissued automatically when they expire. Instead, you must apply to renew your Card. If you have changed address or your name since your last Card was issued you will need to contact your Local Health Office. You should apply well in advance of the date you plan to travel. You can apply for a new card up to 6 months before your current card expires.
Most people in the UK are not eligible for a newly issued European Health Insurance Card. The UK government phasing them out. If however, you meet specific criteria you can apply for a new EHIC from the UK Government. That includes you if you’re an EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizen, and you’ve been living in the UK since before 1 January 2021. Old EHIC cardholders and GHIC cardholders will not be eligible for cover in those 4 countries.
The UK government is currently taking longer than usual to process new UK EHIC applications due to high demand. If you need emergency treatment while you’re visiting another country and haven’t received your card, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC).
Can I renew my international medical insurance card online?
Yes, you can apply to renew your European Health Insurance Card online. Select the Renew Current Card option at the top of the screen. You will then be asked to enter the 10-digit identification number listed on your expired Card. This number is located on the front of your Card, in the bottom left-hand section. You are then asked to confirm the address to which the Card will be dispatched. After this, you will see a confirmation screen, confirming that your renewal application has been successful and that your Card will be dispatched.
European medical card in the UK – GHIC
The UK medical card, or 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.
How does the new European Health Insurance Card work?
The GHIC works in the same way as the EHIC. It is a European medical card that gives temporary visitors from the UK access to emergency medical care and routine care (‘medically necessary state-provided healthcare’) 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 for free. If treatment is normally paid for, they will have to pay too. 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.
Medically necessary healthcare includes things like:
- emergency treatment and visits to A&E
- treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition
- routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
- routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth
- oxygen therapy and kidney dialysis
You’ll need to pre-arrange some treatments with the relevant healthcare provider in the country you’re visiting – for example, kidney dialysis or chemotherapy.
What countries does the GHIC cover?
The GHIC and EHIC medical cards were designed to provide cover in all EU countries – however, both have some exclusions.
|The Channel Islands||Not covered|
|The Isle of Man||Not covered|
|San Marino||Not covered|
|the Vatican||Not covered|
*Old EHICs won’t give you cover in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland unless you were on a visit there before 1 January 2021.
How much does the UK EHIC cost?
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 the Global or European Health Insurance Card.
Do I need a European medical card?
It’s not compulsory to hold either of these medical cards in order to travel through or to Europe. Not all state healthcare is free in the EU and you may have to pay for services that you would get for free on the NHS.
However, having the Global or European medical cards provides you with proof that you’re entitled to free emergency medical care. Whilst you won’t be refused emergency care, you could end up with a huge bill after treatment. Given that these cards are free – they provide great peace of mind when travelling in the EU.
Please note that your EHIC or GHIC is not a substitute for travel or health insurance. It may not cover all health costs and never covers repatriation costs. Make sure you have travel and health insurance as well as your card.
If you’re abroad and do not have your card with you
You can get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to prove your entitlement to medically necessary healthcare if you travel to Europe without your existing EHIC, UK GHIC or new UK EHIC and need treatment during your visit. The PRC will give you the same cover as an existing EHIC, UK GHIC or new UK EHIC until you return home.
Applying for healthcare cover abroad for family members
Every family member needs their own card. You can add a spouse, civil partner, durable partner and children to your application when you apply. You must enter your own details first and apply for any additional cards when prompted.
Can I apply using the online service?
Most people can apply using our online service.
You should contact NHS Overseas Healthcare Services if you fall into one of the following groups as you will not be able to use the online service to apply:
- If you’re an EU national student
- If you hold a UK-issued A1
- If you’re an au pair or nanny
- Chen and Ibrahim/Teixeira carers
- Dependent grandparents and grandchildren
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.
Wherever you move, go with total peace of mind
At William Russell, we have nearly 30 years of helping expatriates settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class global health insurance. Plus, we produce lots of expert material to help you and your family adapt to life abroad.
Making the move to another country can be challenging. But no matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers global health insurance that covers you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays, and we can even offer medical evacuations to patients who require treatment in other countries.*
* We cannot cover expats living and working in Switzerland.