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How to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

There will be no changes to healthcare access for UK nationals visiting or living in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland before 31 December 2020.

You can continue to use your EHIC during this time, as you did before.

An EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. Make sure you have both before you travel.

You can continue to use your EHIC in the country you were visiting on 31 December 2020 for the duration of your visit to that country.

Applying for an EHIC

The quickest way is to apply online. Your EHIC will normally arrive within 10 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.

Where do I apply?

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, 546kb) 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.

EHIC from 1 January 2021

You’ll still be able to access healthcare through EHIC for visits that begin after 1 January 2021 if you’re either:

  • a UK State Pensioner living in the EU before 31 December 2020
  • a UK student studying in in the EU before 31 December 2020
  • a "frontier worker" (someone who works in one state and lives in another) before 31 December 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • an EU national living in the UK before 31 December 2020

Further information

Page last reviewed: 30 January 2020
Next review due: 30 January 2023