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Apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

You should prepare for possible changes to your access to healthcare when the UK leaves the EU if you're a UK national travelling to the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

If you're planning to visit after the UK leaves the EU, you should continue to buy travel insurance.

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

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. The Money and Pensions Advice Service has information about buying travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

EHIC after Brexit

The European Health Insurance Card (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 for treatment in full.

Check the guidance for the country you're travelling to

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad.

If you're using an EHIC issued by the UK, this will still be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

If your trip or treatment started before Brexit and you're being asked to pay for healthcare coverage after Brexit, the UK can help.

To organise a payment, you’ll need to give your healthcare provider's details to the NHS Business Services Authority’s Overseas Healthcare Services.

Call the NHS Business Services Authority on +44 (0)191 218 1999 for more information. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm and Saturday 9am to 3pm (UK time).

How to apply for or renew your EHIC

You can apply for or renew an EHIC using the official EHIC online application form. This is free of charge.

Beware of unofficial websites, which may charge if you apply through them. An EHIC is free of charge.

Apply for your EHIC now

EHIC up until the UK leaves the EU

An EHIC gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

What's covered

The EHIC covers medically necessary state-provided healthcare at a reduced cost or, in many cases, free of charge, until your planned return home.

This includes treatment of a chronic or pre-existing medical condition that becomes necessary during your visit.

It also includes routine maternity care, as long as you're not going abroad to give birth.

But if the birth happens unexpectedly, the EHIC will cover the cost of all medical treatment linked to the birth for mother and baby.

The EHIC covers the provision of oxygen and kidney dialysis, although you'll have to arrange and pre-book these treatments before you go on holiday. You can ask a GP or hospital for advice.

Check that you're not booked with a private healthcare provider, as these are not covered by the EHIC.

The EHIC also covers routine medical care for people with pre-existing conditions that need monitoring.

What's not covered

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.

This means you may have to make a patient contribution to the cost of your care.

Find out more in our country guides

In some countries, patients are expected 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.

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts or being flown back to the UK.

The EHIC is not valid on cruises.

It's important to have both an EHIC and a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes healthcare in place before you travel.

Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC, and many will waive the excess if you have one.

The EHIC will not cover your medical treatment if you're travelling abroad specifically to have medical treatment, including giving birth.

Find out about going abroad for medical treatment

You may not be able to use the card in some parts of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, as state-provided healthcare may not be available in certain areas.

Check the guidance for the country you're travelling to

Be cautious if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. They can sometimes reassure visitors that they can claim back whatever is paid out.

This may be the case if your individual travel insurance provides for this.

But costs may not necessarily be recoverable under the EHIC scheme, particularly if treatment is not from a state provider.

Who can apply for a UK-issued EHIC?

Residents of the United Kingdom

Entitlement to an EHIC is not based on your nationality. It's based on insurability under EU law. This applies to all EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

The UK operates a residency-based healthcare system (in the form of the NHS), which means access is generally determined by residency and not by the past or present payment of National Insurance contributions or UK taxes.

If you're ordinarily resident in the UK and not insured by another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you're likely to be considered to be insured by the UK under EU law and will be entitled to a UK-issued EHIC.

You'll need to provide the necessary evidence when applying. There are certain circumstances where you may be entitled to a UK-issued EHIC despite living in another country in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

You're not entitled to a UK-issued EHIC if you're insured by another country in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland but live in the UK.

You should contact the relevant authority in the country you're insured by and request an EHIC.

Information:

If your circumstances change, you may lose your entitlement to a UK-issued EHIC.

If you then use your EHIC abroad, you may be liable for the full cost of treatment received.

You may lose your entitlement to a UK-issued EHIC when you move abroad, take up work abroad or change your residency status.

Families

Every family member requires an EHIC. You can make an application for yourself and on behalf of your partner and any dependent children under the age of 16.

If you already have an EHIC, you must enter your own details first and apply for any additional cards when prompted.

If you're under the age of 16, a parent or guardian will need to apply for you. Boarding school teaching staff can apply on behalf of any children in their care.

You'll need to give the following information for each person you're making an application for:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance (NI) number or NHS Number (CHI number in Scotland, or Health and Care Number in Northern Ireland)

Temporary NI numbers cannot be used to apply for an EHIC. A temporary NI number uses the prefix "TN", the person's date of birth, and "M" or "F" to denote gender – for example, TN131160M.

Your card will normally arrive within 7 days if you apply using the official EHIC website.

Students studying abroad

If you're planning to study in another country in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you'll need to apply for an EHIC time limited to the length of your course (a student EHIC).

You cannot apply for this type of EHIC online.

Find out more about studying abroad

Non-EEA nationals

If you or a family member are not an EU, Norwegian, Icelandic, Liechtensteiner or Swiss national, you'll have to provide further evidence that you're eligible.

You'll need to complete an EHIC application form (PDF, 756kb), attach a copy of your visa or UK residence permit, and post it to:

Overseas Healthcare Services
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN

If you live in Europe

You'll be entitled to a UK-issued EHIC if you live in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland and 1 of the following applies to you:

  • you receive a UK State Pension or exportable UK benefit, and have a UK-issued S1 form (certificate of entitlement) registered in your country of residence
  • you're a worker posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by your UK employer, or a frontier worker living in 1 of these countries and working in the UK
  • you're a family member of a posted worker or someone working in the UK and not covered in your own right by the EEA country you reside in

You cannot apply online for a UK-issued EHIC.

You'll need to contact Overseas Healthcare Services at the NHS Business Services Authority instead.

Call 0191 218 1999 from the UK or +44 191 218 1999 from abroad, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

For more detailed information, see moving abroad or phone the EHIC enquiry line on 0300 330 1350.

If you're not eligible for a UK-issued EHIC, you should see if you're eligible for an EHIC in the country you're currently living in.

Residents of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not eligible for an EHIC.

How to renew an EHIC for you or a family member

The EHIC is valid for up to 5 years. Check your EHIC is still valid before you travel.

You can renew an EHIC up to 6 months before the expiry date, but any time left on the card will not be added to your new card.

Renewing your card is free. You can renew your EHIC online if you're a UK resident and none of your personal details have changed.

Non-EEA nationals

If you or a family member are not an EU, Norwegian, Icelandic, Liechtensteiner or Swiss national, you'll have to provide further evidence that you're eligible.

You'll need to complete an EHIC application form (PDF, 756kb), attach a copy of your visa or UK residence permit, and post it to:

Overseas Healthcare Services
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN

Living abroad

If you live abroad and you:

  • receive a UK State Pension or exportable UK benefit
  • you're a posted or frontier worker
  • or you're living in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland and are a family member of someone working in the UK

you need to apply to renew your EHIC by contacting Overseas Healthcare Services:

Overseas Healthcare Services
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN

Tel: 0191 218 1999, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Families

If you need to renew some but not all EHIC cards in your family, enter the details of all family members, including those who still have valid cards.

This will ensure the details of all members of the family remain linked.

A warning message will be displayed for those whose cards cannot be renewed, and only those cards that have expired or are due to expire will be renewed this time.

If you need to change your personal details, you can only renew your EHIC online if you have your personal identification number (PIN), which is on your EHIC card.

The PIN begins with "UK" (for example, UK123456) and is found on the same line as your date of birth.

It's a good reference number to have to hand and makes it easier for the EHIC team to find your details on the system.

If some of your details have changed since your card was issued but you do not have your PIN, you may not be able to renew your card online.

None of my details have changed

You can renew your EHIC card online. Enter all of your details.

My name has changed

You can only renew online if you have a PIN.

If you do not have a PIN, contact the application line on 0300 330 1350 to renew your card.

My address has changed

If none of your other details have changed or you previously informed the EHIC team of your change of address, you can renew your card online.

Enter your new address in the address field. Your renewed card(s) will be sent to this address.

If you're not sure whether you have informed the EHIC team of any changes or there have been any other changes to your details, contact the enquiry line on 0300 330 1350.

Or you can email nhsbsa.ehicenquiries@nhsbsa.nhs.uk or write to:

EHIC Enquiries
PO Box 1114
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE99 2TL

You'll have to provide your full name, UK address, date of birth and your PIN, if you know it.

If you're abroad and do not have your EHIC with you

You can be issued with a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to prove your entitlement to the EHIC if you travel to Europe without your EHIC but then need medical treatment during your visit.

You'll need to apply for a PRC by calling Overseas Healthcare Services at the NHS Business Services Authority on +44 (0)191 218 1999, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Someone else can apply for a PRC on your behalf.

If you need it outside opening hours, you should call as soon as possible the next working day.

The PRC will give you the same cover as an EHIC until you return home.

When calling for a PRC, you'll need to provide:

  • your National Insurance number
  • your name
  • your address
  • your date of birth
  • the name of the treatment facility
  • the email address for the specific department of the organisation providing your treatment

If your EHIC is lost or stolen

Call the enquiry line on 0300 330 1350 if you need to replace a lost or stolen EHIC.

It's available Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, and Saturday, 9am to 3pm. A 24/7 voice automated service is also available.

Or you can email nhsbsa.ehicenquiries@nhsbsa.nhs.uk or write to:

EHIC Enquiries
PO Box 1114
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE99 2TL

You'll need to provide your full name, UK address, date of birth and EHIC PIN, if you know it.

Claiming a refund

Your EHIC provides you with the right to access state-provided healthcare that becomes necessary during your trip.

You'll be treated on the same basis as a resident of the country you're visiting.

In some countries you may be expected to pay your bill upfront and then claim a refund afterwards.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary). You or your insurance company may need them if you're applying for a refund.

Some countries ask patients to pay a contribution towards the cost of their care, such as for prescription costs. This is known as a co-payment or patient share.

You can claim back the difference between the total bill and the patient share, but the actual patient share is non-refundable.

It's the responsibility of the authority of the country of treatment to decide the amount of the patient share and therefore how much is refundable from the total bill.

For further advice, contact the Overseas Healthcare Service on 0191 218 1999, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Page last reviewed: 23 September 2019
Next review due: 23 September 2022