The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC): Is It Still Valid After Brexit?

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Planning a holiday abroad is no easy feat and there are plenty of things that go into this — ensuring everyone has a passport, purchasing flights and hotels and even how you are going to get to the airport for starters!

An important addition to any holiday overseas is adequate health or travel insurance. Whilst in most cases holidays are incident-free, accidents can and do happen and the last thing anyone needs is for a friend, family member or even themselves to require medical assistance whilst in a foreign country.

Prior to the UK leaving to EU (otherwise known as 'Brexit') this was a relatively straightforward process. Most UK citizens could apply for a European Health Insurance Card or 'EHIC' which entitled you to state-provided medical treatment if you had an accident or suffered illness whilst in any EU country (plus a few others). However, Brexit has resulted in a series of significant changes across the board, affecting the way we live, work and travel.

So you may be wondering if your European Health Insurance Card is still valid, now that Britain has exited the EU. You are not alone in this, and we've put together a handy guide with all the information you need to know about how to travel safely within the EU post-Brexit.

What is a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

In simple terms a European Health Insurance Card or 'EHIC' entitles UK citizens to state-provided medical care in the event they fall ill or suffer injury in any EU country.

Here is a full list of EU countries in which the EHIC scheme applies:

  • 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
  • Sweden

The EHIC scheme also applies to Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and offers the same protection to any EU citizen who suffers illness or injury in the UK, too.

What does a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) cover?

An EHIC entitles the card-holder access to state-provided medical care in cases where this is deemed medically necessary by health care professionals i.e. it is not possible for the individual to wait until they return to the UK to seek medical treatment. You will find you can access these healthcare services at a discounted rate, or in some case, for free.

Here are some examples of what an EHIC can cover:

  • Treatment for a pre-existing medical conditions
  • Treatment for chronic illnesses
  • Trips to A&E and emergency treatment
  • Oxygen and kidney dialysis
  • Routine maternity care (as long as you haven't traveled to that country to give birth)

Remember though, whilst an EHIC can certainly cover costs associated with many types of emergency treatment, it does not cover everything. In fact, you may find you are required to pay for a service you might otherwise get for free through the NHS, when you are visiting an EU country so don't assume all medical treatment is automatically covered.

Are European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC's) still valid after Brexit?

The key question you may be asking yourself is whether or not EHIC's are still valid given the UK's departure from the EU. Well, you certainly won't be the only one as the UK has issued over 27 million EHIC cards!

Well, it's not the simple 'yes' or 'no' answer you might be hoping for, as there are some cases where EHIC's can still be used up until a certain point, and others where you will need to apply for a new type of card, the UK Global Health Insurance Card or 'UK GHIC' which we will look at later.

Luckily, we've broken it down for you...

Can I still use my European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) abroad?

If you have an existing EHIC, it will remain valid up until the expiry date shown on the card

If you currently have a UK-issued EHIC then you're in luck — as part of the withdrawal agreement it was decided that UK nationals would continue to be entitled to access state-provided medical care under the EHIC scheme until their card expires (this is shown in the bottom right-hand corner).

So, if you are looking to book a short visit to a country in the EU for, say, a holiday or business purposes then be sure to check whether your EHIC is still valid!

Can I apply for a new European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

In most cases you will not be eligible to apply for a new EHIC card, instead, you will be asked to apply for it's replacement, the UK Global Health Insurance Card, or 'UK GHIC'. However, there are still certain groups of people who may be able to apply for a new UK EHIC card, so it's well worth seeing if you fit into any of the below categories.

  • You're registered with an S1 form (formerly E121, E106 or E109) that has been issued by the UK, and have been living in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein since before January 1st 2021
  • You're registered with an A1 form that has been issued by the UK, and have been living in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein since before January 1st 2021
  • You're a national of either the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, and have legally resided in the UK since before 1 January 2021 and are covered under the Withdrawal Agreement (note: you may not be covered if you‘re also a UK national or if you were born in the UK!)
  • You're a Chen or Ibrahim/Teixeira carer
  • You're a student who normally resides in the UK and have been studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland since before 1 January 2021 (note: you won't be able to use this card for treatment in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland unless this is your country of study!)

You may also be entitled to apply for a new UK EHIC if you're a family member or dependent of an individual in any of the groups listed above. Remember though, this list is not exhaustive and eligibility may be subject to further conditions. Be sure to check out the full list of eligible groups here and don't be afraid to ask for advice if needed.

Where can I apply for a new UK European Health Insurance Card (UK EHIC)?

If you fall into any of the above categories and any others specified by the UK government then you may be eligible to purchase a new UK EHIC.

Applying for a new UK EHIC is a relatively straightforward process and the easiest way to do this is through the UK's NHS website and online application form.

In order to apply for a new UK EHIC you will need:

  • Your National Insurance number
  • The National Insurance numbers of any other people, including your partner, you are applying for who are 16 years old or over

You may also be asked for you NHS number, so it's good to have that to hand as well.

Remember, UK EHIC's are free so don't be fooled by third-party websites offering these cards for a fee!

What is a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?

For those who don't find themselves eligible to apply for a new UK EHIC don't worry, all is not lost. The EHIC has a fancy new replacement and is appropriately named the UK Global Health Insurance Card or 'UK GHIC'.

A UK-issued GHIC gives you similar entitlements as the EHIC, for example, giving you access to state-provided medical care for free or a reduced cost in the event you require urgent assistance when visiting a country in the EU.

Unlike new UK EHIC's, however, the new UK GHIC's are only valid in EU countries, and cannot be used in Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein.

It's important to understand the distinctions here and when each card is valid, so we've highlighted the key differences in the table below:

Countries card is validNew UK EHICUK GHIC

European Union (EU)

thumbs up
thumbs up

Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein

thumbs up
red x

More countries may be added in the future

red x
thumbs up

What does a Global Health Insurance Card Cover?

Similarly to the EHIC, those who possess a new UK GHIC will be entitled to access state-provided medical care in cases where this is deemed medically necessary by health care professionals. This means you can access the sorts of healthcare services as those who lie locally, and will find you can access these at a discounted rate, or in some case, for free.

Here are some examples of what the new UK GHIC can cover:

  • Treatment for a pre-existing medical conditions
  • Treatment for chronic illnesses
  • Trips to A&E and emergency treatment
  • Oxygen and kidney dialysis
  • Routine maternity care (as long as you haven't traveled to that country to give birth)

Remember, as with the EHIC holding a UK GHIC card does not automatically grant you access to all emergency healthcare services for free or at a discounted rate. There are some costs that simply aren't covered, and you may find you have to pay for some services out of pocket that you might otherwise be able to access for free through the NHS in the UK.

Who can apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?

The government has a pre-defined set of criteria that indicates whether an individual is eligible to apply for a UK GHIC. You need to ** fulfill only one of these to be eligible**:

  • You're legally living in the UK and you do not have any healthcare cover provided by an EU country
  • You're living in the EU with a registered S1 form (formerly E121, E106 or E109)S1, E121, E106 or E109) that has been issued by the UK
  • You're living in the EU with an A1 form that has been issued by the UK

You are also eligible to apply for a new UK GHIC if you're a family member or dependant of an individual in any of the groups listed above.

How do I apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?

If you fulfil any one of the criteria listed above then you will find you are eligible to apply for a new UK GHIC. This process needn't be stressful, and the easiest and quickest way to do this is to do this online, via the UK's NHS website and online application form.

In order to apply for a UK GHIC you will need:

  • Your National Insurance number
  • The National Insurance numbers of any other people, including your partner, you are applying for who are 16 years old or over

You may also be asked for you NHS number, so it's good to have that to hand as well.

Remember, UK EHIC's are free so don't be fooled by third-party websites offering these cards for a fee!

Do I still need to purchase travel insurance if I have an EHIC or GHIC?

There is an assumption that an EHIC or GHIC is a substitute for good quality travel insurance, however, this is not the case!

There are plenty of things that both an EHIC and GHIC will not cover you for, for example, costs due to holiday cancellation or repatriation. Also, remember that these cards don't cover all type of state-provided healthcare services and certainly don't cover you should you wish to access services provided by the private healthcare sector. So, you may find you have to pay out of pocket anyway and having travel insurance that covers medical expenses means you can likely claim back these costs.

There are plenty of reasons to take out travel insurance in general for when you decide to go abroad, and given how costly medical care can be, we would certainly recommend considering this.

If you are unsure about which company is best for you then don't worry — we have also reviewed some of the UK's most popular travel insurance providers, such as AA, Saga, Just Travel Cover, Direct Line to name a few.

FAQ's

Yes and no.

If you had an existing European Health Insurance Card prior to January 1st 2021 then you can continue to use this until it expires (this will be detailed on your card).

Certain groups of people are eligible to apply for a new UK EHIC, however in the majority of cases you will need to apply for the EHIC's replacement — the UK Global Health Insurance Card or 'GHIC'.

In any case, you can apply for both online using the NHS websites online application form.

Unless you fall into certain groups specified on the UK Government's website then you won't be able to apply for a new European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) per se.

Instead, you will be able to apply for its replacement, the UK Global Health Insurance Card or 'UK GHIC', which you can apply for using the UK's NHS website and online application form.

If you fall into one of the groups of people specified on the UK Government's website then absolutely, the easy way to apply for a new European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) using their online application form.

If, however, you are eligible to apply for a new UK EHIC then you will be able to apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC). You can also apply for this online here.

Yes — as it stands, Ireland is included in the list of countries in the European Union meaning that new and existing European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC's) as well as new UK Global Health Insurance Cards (GHIC's) are valid here.

If you travel abroad and either forget or lose your EHIC or GHIC you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to prove your entitlement to medically necessary healthcare if you need it.

Remember, you should only apply for a PRC at the point you need treatment as they cannot be issued in advance. When applying for a PRC ensure you have the email address of the hospital who is providing your medical care as you will need it.

You can apply for a PRC by contacting the NHS Overseas Healthcare Services.

Yes! Both new UK European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC's) and UK Global Health Insurance Cards (GHIC's) are completely free.

However, there are many third-party sites out there who will try and charge a fee for this so watch out for these and always go through the official government website when you apply.

You are not legally required to have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) prior to traveling abroad, although we would certainly recommend it.

This is because medical costs abroad can in some cases be astronomical, so having this extra layer of protection in place could certainly save you a lot of money if something were to happen. Also, many travel insurance providers will offer certain types of cover on the basis that you hold either an EHIC or GHIC so this is another reason why it's worth considering — the other reason, of course, being that both are free to apply for!

European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) and the new UK Global Health Insurance Cards (GHIC) are not a substitute for good quality travel insurance as there are many things that these cards simply will not cover.

If you are looking to find travel insurance that offers good value for money then we always recommend comparing quotes online to ensure you really are getting the best deal for you. You can find comparison sites easily through a quick Google search, but we'd recommend Compare Cover to start with.

We have also conducted our own research look at how some of the UK's cheapest travel insurance providers fare, so be sure to check this out here.

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The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.