European health insurance card: Who is eligible and how to obtain one

Insurance Business aims to address this awareness gap by explaining how the European Health Insurance Card works for UK residents, what types of benefits they can access, and what has changed since Brexit. If you’re still working out if this health insurance card is worth taking out, this article can help you in your decision. For the insurance professionals in the UK who frequently visit our site, this article could be the start of an important conversation with a client. 

According to the European Commission’s website, the EHIC enables cardholders to receive “medically necessary, state-provided healthcare” in European Union (EU) member countries for free or at a reduced cost.  

Following the nation’s departure from the EU, the UK government introduced the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) as a replacement for the EHIC in 2021. The GHIC gives UK residents the same access to healthcare in EU countries as the European Health Insurance Card.  

Existing EHICs are set to expire within four years, after which those who will apply for renewal will be issued a GHIC. Cardholders, however, can still use their EHICs to access the same benefits until the expiry date. 

The EHIC and GHIC cover the cost of emergency or necessary medical care if you’re travelling to an EU-member state or Switzerland. The National Health Service (NHS) defines medically necessary healthcare as treatment that “cannot reasonably wait until you come back to the UK.” This includes: 

  • Emergency treatment and visits to the accident and emergency (A&E) unit of a hospital 
  • Treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition 
  • Routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that require monitoring 
  • Routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth 
  • Oxygen therapy 
  • Kidney dialysis 

Having a Global or European Health Insurance Card, however, does not guarantee free coverage. Each country implements a different healthcare system, so a medical service that costs you nothing in one may not be free in another. Ultimately, whether a treatment is considered necessary depends on the healthcare provider in the nation you are visiting.  

You can check out which medical treatments you can access via your EHIC and GHIC on GOV.UK’s foreign office country guide.  

Global Health Insurance Card 

The roll out of the Global Health Insurance Card means that existing European Health Insurance Cards will eventually no longer be renewed. You may be eligible for a UK GHIC if you meet one of the following criteria: 

  • You are a legal resident in the UK and do not have healthcare cover provided by an EU-member country or Switzerland 
  • You are living in the EU or Switzerland with a registered S1 form – formerly known as E106, E109, E120, and E121 form – issued by the UK government 
  • You are living in the EU or Switzerland with an A1 certificate issued by the UK government 
  • You are a family member or dependant of an entitled individual listed above 

New UK European Health Insurance Card 

However, there are still certain individuals who can renew their EHIC. The new European Health Insurance Card is identifiable by a Union flag hologram in the top-right corner. You may be eligible for a new UK EHIC if you meet one of the following criteria: 

  • You have been a resident of an EU-member country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein before 01 January 2021 with a registered S1 form issued by the UK government 
  • You have been living in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein before 01 January 2021 with an A1 certificate issued by the UK government 
  • You are a national of an EU-member country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein who has legally resided in the UK before 01 January 2021 and is covered under the Withdrawal Agreement 
  • You are an EU national ordinarily a resident in the UK, but studying in an EU-member state, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, and your course started before 01 January 2021 
  • You are a family member or dependant of an entitled individual listed above 
  • You are a Chen and Ibrahim/Teixeira carer 

Dual citizens 

If you are a dual national living in the UK and jointly hold UK and EU, Icelandic, Liechtenstein, Norwegian, or Swiss citizenship, you will not normally be eligible for a new UK EHIC unless you meet the following requirements: 

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

Dual citizens, however, are usually eligible for a UK GHIC. 

People born in the UK 

Those who were born in the UK to British parents or parents who were settled and have lived in the country before 01 January 2021, are also ineligible for a new UK EHIC even if they hold EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizenship. This includes people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens. But they are usually qualified for a UK GHIC. 

Irish nationals 

Ireland residents, meanwhile, may be able to get a new UK European Health Insurance Card if they are: 

  • A UK State Pensioner or receiving some other exportable benefits, and have been living in the Republic of Ireland before 01 January 2021 
  • A frontier worker, meaning they are working in one country while living in another, and have been one before 01 January 2021 

A GHIC or an existing European Health Insurance Card is valid if you are travelling to the following: 

EU countries 

There are currently 27 EU-member states: 

EU countries where you can use a European health insurance card


You can use your GHIC or EHIC in Switzerland if one of the following applies to you: 

  • UK national 
  • Swiss national 
  • EU citizen 
  • Refugee 
  • Stateless person 
  • Dependant or survivor of someone with one of these nationalities or statuses 

You may also be asked to show proof of your nationality before accessing healthcare in Switzerland using your GHIC or EHIC. 

One of the biggest changes brought about by the UK’s departure from the EU is that the GHIC and most European Health Insurance Cards no longer provide Brits with the coverage they previously enjoyed in these three nations: 

  • Iceland 
  • Liechtenstein 
  • Norway 

The only exception is if you were already in these countries before 01 January 2021. If that is the case, you can use your existing EHIC until you leave, as long as it hasn’t expired. 

Norway, however, allows visitors with UK passports to access medically necessary healthcare at no or reduced cost. Otherwise, you will need a new EHIC to get state-sponsored medical treatment from these countries. 

Yes, if you are not a UK resident. The GHIC and EHIC are not valid in the country where you live. Brits can access free medical treatment through the NHS, its publicly funded healthcare system. 

You can learn how the UK’s healthcare system work, along with those in other countries, in our global health insurance guide.   

Not really. The “global” scope of the GHIC is limited to EU countries and Switzerland. The UK, however, has reciprocal healthcare agreements with non-EU countries. Requirements vary per country, but typically you will need to present evidence of UK citizenship such as a passport. A Global or European Health Insurance Card is not necessary. 

Here’s a list of countries with which the UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements, according to GOV.UK

Countries where UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements

In the survey conducted by the travel insurance specialist Direct Line mentioned earlier, one of the reasons that Brits gave for their unwillingness to apply for a European Health Insurance Card or GHIC was the cost. They mistakenly believed that they had to pay to have their EHIC replaced with a GHIC, with the average cost thought to be pegged at £9.30.  

This is probably the result of several unscrupulous websites asking applicants for payment. 

The government, however, reminded UK citizens that both the EHIC AND GHIC ARE FREE OF CHARGE and that they should use only the NHS website when applying for these health insurance cards.    

Applicants must be aged 16 and above and will need to create an account using the NHS form. For those below 16-years old, they will need a parent or guardian to apply on their behalf. 

If the need arises and you do not have your Global or European Health Insurance Card with you, then you will need to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to access medically necessary healthcare. The PRC will provide the same coverage as the EHIC and GHIC.    

You can apply for a PRC through the NHS Overseas Healthcare Services. During your application you will need to provide the following: 

  • 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 healthcare provider 

If you are unable to apply for a PRC yourself, someone else can do it on your behalf. 

While a European Health Insurance Card and a Global Health Insurance Card can be used in medical emergencies, they do not cover all treatments and healthcare services. To have complete coverage when travelling, it is still best to purchase a separate travel insurance policy. 

 A standalone travel insurance plan can provide financial protection that extends beyond medical treatment, including: 

  • Trip cancellation and interruption 
  • Lost or delayed luggage 
  • Flight delays 
  • Personal liability 
  • Legal expenses 

Rather than view these health insurance cards as a substitute for travel insurance, it may be better to look at the EHIC and GHIC as a complement to comprehensive travel policies. 

Do you have any experience with applying for a European Health Insurance Card that you want to share? Type out your thoughts in the comments section below.