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Moving abroad: planning for your healthcare

Ensure you plan ahead

Moving to another country can be an overwhelming experience. Travel arrangements, accommodation and visa or work permits are obvious things to consider when preparing to move, but what about planning for your healthcare?

If you are moving abroad on a permanent basis, you will no longer automatically be entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system. You’ll have to notify your GP so that you and your family can be removed from the NHS register.

Most people will no longer be entitled to use their UK-issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access healthcare in Europe, however there are a few exceptions. Read our EHIC guide for more detailed information.

Make sure you budget for any additional healthcare costs you may face, including health insurance.

Before leaving for your new destination, it is important to check what health services are available to you in that country. Healthcare systems vary from country to country and might not include services you would expect to get free of charge under the NHS.  

In most cases you will have to register with the relevant authorities abroad. Once you are registered to work and make national insurance contributions, you'll be entitled to state-run healthcare on the same basis as a resident of that country. However, many countries still expect you to make patient contributions or to join the national health insurance scheme. 

Look up the country-by-country guide on this site and find out what rules apply in your chosen country. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also provides useful information for British nationals living abroad on the GOV.UK website, including information on entry and residence requirements, health, benefits and finance.

 

Living and working abroad

There are circumstances in which you might be entitled to healthcare paid for by the UK. This will depend on whether you want to live abroad permanently, or only work outside the UK for a set period. The assistance available only applies within Europe and can also depend on whether or not you receive a UK State Pension or other UK benefits. For more detailed information see the relevant sections below.

You will not be covered for healthcare paid for by the UK if you are going to live permanently outside the European Economic Area (EEA). If at any time in the future you want to come back to England for planned treatment, further information about accessing healthcare services can be found on the Visiting or Moving to England pages.

 

 

Early retirees

You can now no longer apply for a residual S1 (formerly residual E106), which previously provided temporary healthcare to early retirees moving to other EEA countries.

What does this mean for me?

Before moving to live abroad, it is important that you check how the healthcare system works in that country and what your entitlement will be if you intend not to work, as this varies from country to country. This means you will have to access that country's health system under their rules.

If you are moving abroad on a permanent basis, you will no longer be entitled to medical treatment in the UK under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system. Most people will also not be entitled to use a UK-issued EHIC card to access healthcare abroad.

What if I already have a residual S1?

If you already have a residual S1, this will not affect you – it will continue to be valid until its original expiry date.

Where can I get advice?

For further advice, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team at the Department for Work and Pensions:

Overseas Healthcare Team
Room MO401
Durham House
Washington
Tyne & Wear
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE38 7SF

Phone: 0191 218 1999 from the UK or 0044 (0)191 218 1999 from abroad, (Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm)

General requirements

If you move to an EEA country or Switzerland long term or plan to work in another EEA country, you will need to register with the appropriate authorities. Once you are registered to work in the country and make National Insurance contributions, you will be entitled to state-provided healthcare on the same basis as a national of that country.

Check whether there are any other entry requirements for the country you are going to. Look up the country-by-country guide for more guidance on access to healthcare or visit GOV.UK’s section on Help for British nationals living overseas.

If you are a worker posted by a UK company to an EEA country or Switzerland, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in the country you are posted to. Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for more details:

National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office
HM Revenue and Customs
BX9 1AN
United Kingdom

  • Telephone: 0300 200 3506
  • Outside UK: +44 191 203 7010
  • Opening times: 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday – closed weekends and bank holidays 

Au pair or nanny

If you are working as an au pair or nanny in an EEA country, you are entitled to an EHIC for a period of up to 12 months. After 12 months you must obtain healthcare cover in the country where you are working.

British Armed Forces

If you are stationed in an EEA country or Switzerland, you and your dependants are entitled to a UK issued EHIC. This means your EHIC will cover you and your dependants if you visit a country other than the one you are stationed in.

UK pensioners

If you are living in an EEA country or Switzerland 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. You may also wish to speak to the Exportability Team. 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 your country of residence. Often you need to do this before you can register for healthcare or obtain a medical card.

Once you have registered your S1 in the country you are moving to, 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.

Moving to Spain? Think about your healthcare

Are you a British national thinking of moving to Spain? This animation tells you how to register for healthcare as a resident in a way that is easy to understand. This video was produced by the Department of Health and the British Embassy in Madrid. Follow their top tips for a healthy and happy life in Spain.

Media last reviewed: 03/05/2016

Next review due: 03/05/2019

Page last reviewed: 29/04/2016

Next review due: 29/04/2019

EEA country guide

Find out how you can access healthcare while travelling in the European Economic Area (EEA), including Switzerland

Visiting or moving to England?

This section provides a basic overview of how to access NHS services in the country