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Apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

On this page you can find out:

  • if you're eligible to apply for a new UK EHIC valid from 1 January 2021
  • how to apply for an EHIC for travel until 31 December 2020
  • what EHIC covers
  • what to do if you're abroad and do not have your EHIC

For most people, EHIC may not be valid from 1 January 2021.

Make sure you take out travel insurance with medical cover for your trip.

You may not have access to free emergency medical treatment and could be charged for your healthcare if you do not get health cover with your travel insurance.

Check before you travel

Before planning a trip abroad, check the GOV.UK guidance for travelling overseas during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Visits to the EU that start in 2020 and end in 2021

If you're visiting an EU country over the Christmas and New Year period, your UK EHIC entitlements will continue until you leave that country to either:

  • return to the UK
  • visit another EU country

Using a new UK EHIC from 1 January 2021

Some people will be able to get a new UK-issued EHIC which will remain valid from 1 January 2021.

We're currently accepting applications for a new UK EHIC if you:

  • have a registered S1 form or E121 because you receive a qualifying pension or benefit
  • have a registered S1 form or E121 because you're a family member of someone with a qualifying pension or benefit
  • have a registered S1 form or E106 because you're a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) by 31 December 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • have a registered S1 form or E109 because you're a family member of someone considered to be a frontier worker
  • are a UK student studying in the EU by 31 December 2020

EU nationals living in the UK

If you’re living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you’ll be able to apply for a new UK EHIC in due course. Your current EHIC will remain valid until 31 December 2020.

Healthcare for UK students in the EU

If you're in an EU country on 31 December 2020 because you're studying there, or on a placement as part of a recognised UK university course, and your course continues beyond 2020, you need to apply for a new EHIC.

This covers you for medically necessary healthcare until the end of your study period abroad.

From 1 January 2021, your new UK EHIC will only be valid in the EU country you're studying in. Make sure you also have travel insurance to cover the duration of your course.

Your current EHIC will remain valid until 31 December 2020.

EHIC until 31 December 2020

If you are not eligible for a new UK EHIC from 1 January 2021, you can still apply for or renew an EHIC for travel until 31 December 2020. This is free of charge.

Beware of unofficial websites, which may charge if you apply through them.

What the EHIC covers

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 the GOV.UK country healthcare 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.

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 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 10 days if you apply using the official EHIC website.

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, 546kb), 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

Posted workers in Europe

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

  • you're a worker posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by your UK employer
  • you're a family member of a posted worker and not covered in your own right by the EEA country you reside in

If you need an EHIC before 31 December 2020 you cannot apply online currently. 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.

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.

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

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: 9 November 2020
Next review due: 9 November 2023