If you move to Belgium to live or plan to work in the country, you’ll have to register with a social security organisation to receive medical care in the country. Registration is essential for obtaining a Carte SIS (Social Identity Card), which is required when visiting a doctor or getting medication from a pharmacy.
Once you've registered, all your dependents (such as children or a non-working spouse) are automatically covered under the same social insurance scheme.
Working in Belgium
In Belgium you do not automatically get a social security card when you start working. You must first register with a Mutuelle (French)/Ziekenfonds (Dutch).
The Belgian health insurance and social security system is administered by the several mutuelles/ziekenfonds, which are linked to the various political parties (Liberal, Neutral, Christian, and Socialist).
You are free to choose one that best suits your needs. Once you are a paying member of a mutuelle/ziekenfonds you will receive your SIS (Social Information System) card, a microchip card which carries all your details.
Both you and your employer must make contributions to your social security and health insurance through the mutuelle/ziekenfonds. The amount you have to pay is set by the Belgian government.
Self-employed workers and freelancers
Self-employed people are only insured for major risks, for example hospital surgery and radiography, but you can take out additional cover for minor risks. This extra cover then entitles you to partial reimbursement for consultations, certain dental care, physiotherapy, prostheses and medication when not in hospital.
The 'personal share'
When medical costs are incurred, you will be asked to pay a portion of the costs. This is known as the personal share. This amount can be subject to a fixed maximum (a concept referred to as maximum billing) calculated with reference to income. For minor medical treatment, you usually pay the healthcare provider in full and submit a certificate detailing the treatment and cost to their health insurance scheme for reimbursement. The rate at which you are reimbursed depends on the type of care, the provider used and your personal status, for example if you are disabled, widowed, retired or employed.
If you need information about healthcare in Belgian visit the Belgium.be portal.
For hospital stays and medication from a pharmacy, you pay only your personal share. The hospital or pharmacy reads the SIS card to determine the type of cover given, then collects the balance directly from the health insurance fund.
Some people choose to take out additional healthcare insurance to cover them for any amounts not refunded by their health insurance scheme.
Paying for medical treatment
Receiving medical treatment in Belgium usually works on a pay-per-service basis, in which the patient is billed and pays for each individual consultation, treatment or procedure they receive, and then submits a claim to the appropriate insurance company in order to reclaim part or all of the cost. Very occasionally the total cost of medical treatment is reimbursed through the insurance policy system but usually up to 75 percent will be returned, with the remainder covered by the patient.
Find further information about social security contributions and the cost of medical care from Belgium’s Federal Public Service Social Security portal (PDF, 1.1Mb)
Seconded or posted to Belgium
If you are a worker posted by a UK company to Belgium, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in Belgium. Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for more details:
National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office
HM Revenue and Customs
Telephone: 0300 200 3506
Outside UK: +44 191 203 7010
Opening times: 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday – closed weekends and bank holidays
For more information, read our information on moving abroad.
Studying in Belgium
If you are coming to study or are currently studying in Belgium as part of a UK-recognised course, you may be entitled to healthcare paid for by the UK government.
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If you are living in Belgium and you receive an exportable UK Pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 form.
For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your form via the International Pension Centre in the Department for Work and Pensions on 0191 218 7777.
You may need to liaise with a different team, depending on the exportable benefit. Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.
Once issued, register the S1 form with the relevant authority in Belgium. Often you need to do this before you can register for healthcare or obtain a medical card.
Once you have registered your S1 in Belgium, you will be entitled to apply for and use a UK-issued EHIC to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides useful information for Britons living in Belgium.