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What Does Brexit Mean for Expats in the UK and EU?

Home Blog What Does Brexit Mean for Expats in the UK and EU?

The end of the Brexit transition period brings some changes to the rights of expats. What does the exact impact of Brexit mean for ‘brexpats’ (British nationals living in the EU)? And what implications does it have for EU citizens living in the UK?

What does Brexit mean for Expats?

It’s estimated that there are more than 850,000 UK nationals living in the EU, and 4 million EU citizens who have been granted residence status in the UK. We know that post-Brexit travelling between the UK and EU will no longer be as straightforward as it was. There are already healthcare implications to consider as well, including getting medical treatment when travelling between the EU and the UK and COVID-19 vaccine.

How it affects Britons living in the EU

Are British expats living in the European Union entitled to medical care?

If you are a Briton who was living in the EU before 1 January 2021 you will continue to be able to access healthcare abroad. Similarly, if your healthcare is paid for by the UK through the S1 scheme this hasn’t changed. However, it is important to have correct paperwork in place. It’s also worth checking what is covered as standard and whether you would like additional healthcare cover on top as sometimes even if you are resident, state-provided healthcare in many European countries isn’t entirely free.

If you move to the EU after the transition period, you will not be entitled to state-provided healthcare. You may therefore want to consider the benefits of international health insurance.

The difficulties facing some British expats in registering as being resident in Spain illustrates just how important it is for people to have their paperwork in order post-Brexit. Not being registered means being left without access to state healthcare, which is particularly worrying if people are unable to return home because of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions. In the case of Spain, you may need private insurance to register as resident in the first place. UK citizens must register if they want to stay in Spain for more than 3 months.
Michael Lewars, director at William Russell,
told on 9 April 2021

What about British expats who split their time between the EU and the UK?

If you spend part of your time in the EU, you will need a Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC. This gives visitors access to state-provided healthcare in the EU. However, it covers only ‘necessary healthcare’ – that is healthcare that can’t wait until you’re back in the UK such as A&E and emergency hospital treatment.

The GHIC is designed for people who are ordinarily resident in the UK and who aren’t insured by an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. It replaces the UK-issued EHIC.

Do expats need to apply for residency to have access to healthcare?

In most cases, you will need to register as a resident in the country in which you now live, if you haven’t already done so. This will help to secure your rights to healthcare.

See the UK government’s advice for expats on accessing state-provided healthcare in the EU.

Top 10 reasons to become an expat in 2021
See the top 10 reasons here

Will travel insurance cover any medical treatment I need abroad?

Travel insurance usually includes emergency medical treatment, but not other non-emergency appointments or procedures. It may also not be suitable for permanent residents of a country. As the name suggests, travel insurance covers you on your travels away from your usual place of residence.

Check your travel insurance policy before you travel. If you would like the peace of mind that comes with additional cover, you may want to consider international health insurance, which gives you access to private healthcare around the world.

What's the difference between international health insurance and travel insurance?
Find out here

Can expats still move around the EU after Brexit?

Britons can still move around the EU but will be restricted to a total of 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa. It’s estimated this may affect over half a million people who own holiday homes in Europe.

Rules about expatriates owning and renting property have not changed. However, if you are buying somewhere new, check the property acquisition laws for the country you are buying in – they can vary according to whether you are an EU citizen or not.

How will EU citizens living in the UK be affected by Brexit?

Will EU citizens living in the UK need to apply for residency to have access to healthcare?

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen you’ll be able to stay in the UK for up to six months without a visa in most cases. In order to access healthcare in the UK, however, you will need to have UK residency or private medical insurance.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021. By this date, all eligible applicants are supposed to have applied for pre-Settled Status or Settled Status

Can expats claim state benefits post-Brexit?

Under the EU Withdrawal Agreement you can carry on receiving any UK benefits you already receive as long as you continue to meet eligibility requirements.

Whether you claim your benefits from the UK or another country varies by location. Read more guidance at

William Russell after Brexit

William Russell members will continue to enjoy the same high-quality, personal service we always offer. There are no changes to the benefits or coverage provided by our insurance plans, or to our member experience.

For more information, see How we are dealing with Brexit.

Did you know…?
As a William Russell member if you receive state-funded hospital treatment, we will pay you a cash benefit.

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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.