Skip to main content

Planning your healthcare abroad

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.

If you’re living in an EU country or move there permanently before 31 December 2020, you’ll have life-long healthcare rights in that country as you do now, provided you remain legally resident.

This means you’ll also have the right to apply for a UK S1 if you start drawing a UK State Pension.

You may need to register or apply for residency. Check the GOV.UK healthcare guides to find out what you need to do in each country.

Moving to another country

If you're moving abroad on a permanent basis, you'll no longer automatically be entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system.

You'll have to notify your GP practice so you and your family can be removed from the NHS register.

Before leaving for your new destination, it's important to check what health services are available to you in that country.

Healthcare systems vary from country to country and might not include services you'd expect to get free of charge on the NHS.

In most cases, you'll have to register with the relevant authorities abroad.

Once you're registered to work and make national insurance contributions, you'll be entitled to state-run healthcare on the same basis as a resident of that country.

But many countries still expect you to make patient contributions or to join the national health insurance scheme.

Information:

Use the GOV.UK healthcare guides to find out what rules apply in the country you're moving to.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also provides useful information for British nationals living abroad on GOV.UK, including information on entry and residence requirements, health, benefits and finance.

Living and working abroad

There are circumstances in which you might be entitled to healthcare paid for by the UK.

This will depend on whether you want to live abroad permanently or only work outside the UK for a set period.

The assistance available only applies within Europe and can also depend on whether or not you receive a UK State Pension or other UK benefits.

You will not be covered for healthcare paid for by the UK if you're going to live permanently outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

If at any time in the future you want to come back to England for planned treatment, further information about accessing healthcare services can be found on the visiting or moving to England pages.

Early retirees

You can no longer apply for a residual S1 (formerly residual E106), which previously provided temporary healthcare to early retirees moving to other EEA countries.

What this means for you

Before moving to live abroad, it's important that you check how the healthcare system works in that country and what your entitlement will be if you intend not to work, as this varies from country to country.

This means you'll have to access that country's health system under their rules. Use the GOV.UK healthcare guides for the country you're moving to to find out more.

If you're moving abroad on a permanent basis, you'll no longer be entitled to medical treatment in the UK under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system.

Most people will also not be entitled to use a UK-issued EHIC card to access healthcare abroad.

If you already have a residual S1

If you already have a residual S1, this will not affect you. It will continue to be valid until its original expiry date.

Where to get advice

For further advice, contact Overseas Healthcare Services on +44 (0) 191 218 1999.

You can also write to the following address to ask for advice:

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

General requirements

If you move to an EEA country or Switzerland long-term or plan to work in another EEA country, you'll need to register with the appropriate authorities.

Once you're registered to work in the country and make national insurance contributions, you'll be entitled to state-provided healthcare on the same basis as a national of that country.

Check whether there are any other entry requirements for the country you're going to.

Use the country guides for more guidance on access to healthcare, or get help for British nationals living overseas on GOV.UK.

If you're a worker posted by a UK company to an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in the country you're posted to.

You can find out more from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC):

Contact HMRC about health cover abroad (UK residents)

Contact HMRC about health cover abroad (non-UK residents)

Au pair or nanny

If you're working as an au pair or nanny in an EU country, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you're currently entitled to an EHIC for a period of up to 12 months.

After 12 months you must obtain healthcare cover in the country where you're working.

British Armed Forces

If you're stationed in an EEA country or Switzerland, you and your dependants are entitled to a UK-issued EHIC.

This means your EHIC will cover you and your dependants if you visit a country other than the one you're stationed in.

UK pensioners

If you're living in an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland and you receive an exportable UK pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK.

You'll need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 form.

But if you receive a pension from the country in which you now live and your UK pension, that country will be responsible for your healthcare and an S1 will not be applicable.

If you receive your UK pension as well as a pension from an EU member state, but are now living in a different EU state, the country to which you paid contributions toward your pension for the longest period becomes responsible for your healthcare.

For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your form from the Overseas Healthcare Services on 0191 218 1999.

You may need to liaise with a different team, depending on the exportable benefit. GOV.UK has more information on claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad.

Different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

Once issued, register the S1 form with the relevant authority in your country of residence.

Often you need to do this before you can register for healthcare or obtain a medical card.

Once you have registered your S1 in the country you're moving to, you'll be entitled to apply for and use a UK-issued EHIC to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries.

You cannot apply online for a UK-issued EHIC. Instead, you'll need to request an EHIC-E application form with Overseas Healthcare Services.

Call 0191 218 1999 from the UK or +44 (0)191 218 1999 from abroad, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

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