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Applying for healthcare cover abroad (GHIC and EHIC)

There are two types of cover available.

You can apply for either:

  • a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)
  • a UK European Health Insurance Card (new UK EHIC), if you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement

For most people, the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaces the existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for new applications. They provide the same access to healthcare in the EU.

Information:

A GHIC or EHIC is free of charge. Beware of unofficial websites, they may charge you a fee to apply.

If you have an EHIC

If you have an existing EHIC, it will remain valid until the expiry date on the card. Once your current card expires, you'll need to apply for a new card.

You can apply for a new card up to 6 months before your current card expires.

How to use an EHIC or GHIC

You can use an EHIC or GHIC to get state-provided medically necessary healthcare when you're visiting an EU country.

Medically necessary healthcare means healthcare that cannot reasonably wait until you come back to the UK. Whether treatment is necessary is decided by the healthcare provider in the country you are visiting.

Medically necessary healthcare includes things like:

  • emergency treatment and visits to A&E
  • treatment for long-term or pre-existing medical conditions
  • routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
  • routine maternity care, as long as you're not going abroad to give birth
  • oxygen therapy and kidney dialysis

You'll need to pre-arrange some treatments with the relevant healthcare provider in the country you are visiting, for example kidney dialysis or chemotherapy. You should do so at least 8 weeks before travelling.

Not all state healthcare is free in the EU and you may have to pay for services that you would get for free on the NHS.

Information:

Your EHIC or GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. It may not cover all health costs and never covers repatriation costs. Make sure you have travel insurance as well as an EHIC or GHIC.

Where you can use your card

You can use a GHIC or existing EHIC when visiting:

  • an EU country

A GHIC may become valid in more countries in the future. Check this page before you travel.

You can use a new UK EHIC that you have received because you have Withdrawal Agreement rights (identifiable by a union flag hologram in the top-right corner) when visiting:

  • an EU country
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Switzerland

The EU countries are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Who can apply for a GHIC

You can apply for a GHIC if you:

  • live in the UK
  • normally live in the UK but are studying in the EU
  • live in the EU and have been issued with a UK S1 or A1 document
  • are an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above

If you're applying from Northern Ireland, from Spring 2021 you'll have the choice of a standard GHIC with a union flag or one with a plain background.

Who can apply for a new UK EHIC

You can apply for the new UK EHIC if you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. You may be able to apply if you are:

  • an EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizen, and you started living in the UK before 1 January 2021 – however you may not be eligible if you are also a UK national or if you were born in the UK
  • a UK State Pensioner or someone in receipt of other UK social security benefits, and you started living in the EU before 1 January 2021 and you have a registered S1 form or E121
  • a frontier worker working in the UK and living in an EU country, and you started working in the UK before 1 January 2021 and you have a registered S1 form or E106
  • a worker posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland by your UK employer, and you started working there before 1 January 2021.
  • an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above
Information:

It's currently taking longer than usual to process new UK EHICs due to high demand. Work is being done to resolve this and all applications will be processed as soon as possible.

Applying for family members

Every family member needs their own card.

You can add a spouse, civil partner, durable partner, and children to your application when you apply. You must enter your own details first and apply for any additional cards when prompted.

If you've already completed your application and wish to add additional family members you will need to contact NHS Overseas Healthcare Services.

Dual nationals

If you live in the UK and jointly hold UK and EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Lichtenstein citizenship you will not normally be eligible for a new UK EHIC unless you:

  • hold British citizenship through naturalisation
  • were a citizen of an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein before becoming a British citizen

People born in the UK

If you were born in the UK to British parents or parents who were settled in the UK and you have lived in the UK from before 1 January 2021, you're not normally eligible for a new UK EHIC even if you're an EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizen. This includes people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens.

You will usually be eligible for a GHIC.

Students studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland

If you normally live in the UK and have been studying in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein since before 1 January 2021, you may be eligible for a new UK Student EHIC for use in the EU and your country of study.

You'll not be able to use this card for treatment in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland unless one of these countries is your country of study.

If you started your course after 1 January 2021 or you are planning to study in an EU country, you'll need to apply for a Student GHIC. You can use the Student GHIC in the EU and your country of study, but not yet in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

To apply you'll need a letter from your university or college confirming:

  • the name and address of the UK educational institution if you're travelling as part of your course
  • the address of where you're studying in the EU
  • details of the qualification you're studying for
  • the dates your course started and is due to finish

Complete a GHIC application form (PDF, 678kb) and post it along with your university or college letter to:

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

Student GHIC applications are currently not being processed online.

People who live in Ireland

You may be able to get a new UK EHIC if you are:

  • a UK State Pensioner or are receiving some other exportable benefits and you started living in the Republic of Ireland before 1 January 2021
  • a frontier worker working in the UK and living in the Republic of Ireland, and you started working in the UK before 1 January 2021
  • an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above

If you live in Ireland and think you're eligible for a new UK EHIC you cannot currently apply online and you will need to contact NHS Overseas Healthcare Services.

If you are abroad and do not have your card with you

You can get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to prove your entitlement to medically necessary healthcare if you travel to the EU without your GHIC or EHIC and need treatment during your visit. This includes if you travel and require treatment before you have received your GHIC or EHIC.

You should only apply for a PRC at the point you need treatment. PRCs cannot be issued in advance.

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 or GHIC until you return home.

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

  • 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

To apply for a PRC contact NHS Overseas Healthcare Services.

Someone else can apply for a PRC on your behalf.

Claiming a refund

Depending on the country you visit you may be expected to pay all or part of your bill upfront and then claim a refund afterwards.

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 patient share is not refundable.

Keep all receipts and any paperwork. You or your insurance company may need them if you're applying for a refund.

What to do if you believe that your GHIC or EHIC has been incorrectly rejected

If you believe that your GHIC or EHIC card has been wrongly rejected by a hospital or other healthcare provider in the country you were visiting, you should try to resolve the issue with them.

Explain that the card entitles the holder to necessary healthcare. It may be useful to direct them to this webpage.

If further assistance is needed, contact NHS Overseas Healthcare Services, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

What to do if you think you have been incorrectly charged for medical treatment by an EU Member State

It is important that you keep documents relating to your treatment. The NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) may ask you for more information to check your eligibility and the cost of the treatment you had.

This could include:

  • receipts or invoices relating to treatment
  • confirmation of payments made to healthcare institutions
  • documents relating to insurance cover if your insurer paid for treatment
  • discharge documents

They will look at your claim to decide whether you were incorrectly charged when you should have been covered. If they determine that your treatment should have been covered by the GHIC or EHIC, they'll reimburse you or your insurer for the costs of treatment which are covered by your card. This may not include the full costs.

Contact NHS Overseas Healthcare Services, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Page last reviewed: 14 May 2021
Next review due: 14 May 2024