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How to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) may not be valid if there's a no-deal Brexit. This will depend on arrangements with individual countries and might mean you need to pay in full for treatment.

Check the page for the country you're travelling to

If you're using an EHIC issued by the UK, this will still be valid until Brexit happens or if your treatment started before exit day.

An EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad, just as you would if visiting a non-EU country.

Make sure your insurance has the necessary healthcare cover to ensure you can get any treatment you might need.

For example, if you have any pre-existing health conditions, talk to a GP and your insurer about how to get the right cover and how this affects your travel.

Applying for EHIC before Brexit

The quickest way is to apply online. Your EHIC will normally arrive within 7 days and will usually be valid for 5 years.

Is there a charge for an EHIC?

No. EHICs are free. Beware of unofficial websites that may charge you to apply.

Applying for your EHIC

You can apply for an EHIC online or by calling the automated EHIC application service on 0300 330 1350.

You can also download an application form (PDF, 756kb) and apply by post.

Does each person travelling need their own card?

Yes. You can use the same EHIC application to apply for cards for:

  • yourself
  • your partner
  • any dependent children under 19 in full-time education

You'll need to provide these details for each person:

  • National Insurance number or NHS Number (CHI in Scotland or Health and Care Number in Northern Ireland)
  • first names and surname (family name)
  • date of birth

If you're under 16, your parent or guardian will need to apply for you.

When and where can I use my EHIC?

You can use your EHIC when you visit an EU country and Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, such as on a holiday or business trip.

You cannot use your EHIC if you move abroad to live, work or study or go abroad for planned treatment.

What the EHIC covers

The EHIC covers:

  • medically necessary treatment you may need during your visit if you're ill or have an accident
  • treatment for long-term (chronic) conditions and existing illnesses, such as kidney (renal) dialysis
  • routine maternity care (not only because of illness or accident), as long as you're not going abroad specifically to give birth

The EHIC does not cover private medical treatment.

Will I have to pay for treatment if I have an EHIC?

The EHIC allows you to access healthcare from state providers on the same basis as a resident of the country you're visiting. This means at a reduced cost or sometimes free of charge.

Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things you might expect to get free of charge from the NHS.

For example, many countries expect patients to directly contribute a percentage towards the cost of their state-provided treatment. This is known as a patient co-payment.

If you receive treatment under this type of healthcare system, you're expected to pay the same co-payment charge as a patient from that country.

This means that even with an EHIC you may have to pay towards your treatment, depending on the rules of the country you're visiting.

You may be able to claim the money back. Always try to apply for a refund before you return home.

Find out how to apply for a refund

Do I still need travel insurance?

Yes. Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance for your trip that includes the necessary healthcare cover to ensure you can get any treatment you might need.

The EHIC will not cover costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK or private treatment.

Renewing your EHIC

You can renew your EHIC up to 6 months before the expiry date. The quickest way to renew it is online.

You can also renew it by phone or post, but this takes longer.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 28 August 2019
Next review due: 28 August 2022