In order to qualify for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you must primarily be part of the social security system of an EU member state*. However, citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, who have a social security number in their respective countries, can also apply for an EHIC.
Citizens of EU member states or the other countries listed above who are not living in their native country can still make an EHIC application, as long as they are registered with the social security system where they are currently based. If your application is successful and you are granted a card, you will be able to use it to get reduced-fee or free medical care in any of the participating countries.
It is important to note that the card is only for the individual who is named on it and so it won’t cover other family members, such as children or a spouse who may be travelling with you. You’ll need to make an EHIC application for each of them before you depart. The card will then be valid in the European Economic Area (EEA) for five years (although it varies in some countries), after which time it can be renewed.
You may not be able to go ahead with a European Health Insurance Card application if you are getting social insurance payments from an EU state that’s different to the member state where you’re currently living or if you are financially dependent on a person who is. It’s also important to be aware that repatriation costs are not covered by the scheme, meaning if you get a card and use it for a medical emergency, you will only be entitled to care in the country where the accident or illness happened, and you won’t be able to get travel costs back to your home country covered.
Applying for an EHIC Online in the UK
In making the application for your card, you will be asked to give basic information such as your full name, address and date of birth. You’ll have to supply a valid social insurance number and you may have to provide proof of it – this could be in the form of a taxation or other official document that bears your name and address along with the number.
Each card is issued by the respective country’s health authority, which in the UK is the NHS. Replacement cards are also available, in cases where existing ones may have been lost or stolen, and temporary cards can also be obtained, for situations where there’s not enough time before departure abroad to wait for a permanent card to be issued. Britons who are living abroad, in another EEA country, and who are receiving a state pension from the UK may be entitled to a card from the NHS as they would still be eligible for healthcare under the service.
* There are currently 28 member states of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.