GHIC: a simple guide

Now the Brexit transition period is over, the EHIC is being replaced by the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Find out how it can help you access healthcare if you’re visiting the EU.

Now the Brexit transition period is over, the EHIC is being replaced by the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Find out how it can help you access healthcare if you’re visiting the EU.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: please check the latest government travel advice that sets out what you need to do, if anything, before you travel abroad and before you return home. You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. Travel rules can change at short notice, so check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

Josh Daniels
Travel Insurance expert
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Posted 10 MAY 2021

What is a GHIC?

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is the replacement for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which gives EU residents access to state-provided healthcare in other EU countries. Now the Brexit transition period is over, the UK is no longer issuing EHICs, except in some limited circumstances.

Like the EHIC, the GHIC allows UK residents to access state-provided healthcare while visiting EU countries. In some cases, this will be free and in some cases you’ll have to make a contribution – it depends on the system in the country you’re visiting. As well as emergency treatment, the GHIC will allow you to access treatment for ongoing conditions in some situations.

Will my EHIC still work after Brexit?

Yes. If you already have an EHIC you can carry on using it until it expires. EHICs last for five years.

Is a GHIC the same as an EHIC?

Pretty much. Although it’s called the Global Health Insurance Card, it’s only valid in Europe.

The main difference is that you can only use the GHIC in EU countries. Unlike the old EHIC, it won’t cover you in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. If you still have a UK-issued EHIC you can no longer use it in these four countries, unless you were already on a visit there before 1 January 2021.

I have a valid EHIC, do I need a GHIC?

You won’t need a GHIC until your EHIC runs out. Once that happens, you can get an EHIC from the NHS website.

How do I check when my EHIC expires?

Take a look at your card. The expiry date is on the bottom right-hand corner.

Can I still apply for an EHIC?

The UK is still issuing EHICs for certain groups of people including:

  • UK students studying in the EU who’ve been there since before 1 January 2021
  • EU nationals living in the UK since before 1 January 2021
  • Some dual UK/EU nationals

Who needs a GHIC?

If you’re a UK resident and you want to be able to access state-provided healthcare when you’re visiting the EU, you’ll need a GHIC.

UK residents who aren’t British or Irish nationals will have to provide evidence that they’re eligible for the GHIC. For details of what you need to do, see the NHS website.

How do I get a GHIC?

The way to get a GHIC is through the NHS website. GHICs are absolutely free. Only use the NHS website. Do not use any site that asks for payment.

To make sure your GHIC arrives on time, apply for it at least two weeks before your trip.

Can I still use my EHIC if I am not a UK national living in the UK?

EHICs are still being issued by EU countries, so if you’re living in an EU country and have an EU-issued EHIC, you can use it. EU residents can use the EHIC to access healthcare when they visit the UK.

How do I use a GHIC?

You’ll need to show your card before you receive healthcare, so it makes sense to keep it with you while you’re out in case of an emergency.

Will a GHIC cover me for a pre-existing medical condition?

In some cases it will. The GHIC covers what’s called ‘necessary healthcare’ while you’re away. So if you need treatment for a pre-existing condition that can’t wait until you get home, it should cover you. Example of things it can cover include kidney dialysis and routine maternity care. The GHIC won’t cover you if you’ve gone abroad specifically to get treatment, and it doesn’t guarantee you the same treatment as you’d get at home.

Could my GHIC be refused?

The GHIC only covers state-provided healthcare, so you won’t be able to use it for treatment in private hospitals and clinics. It should be accepted for state-provided treatment, but there have been reports of EHICs being refused in the past. If this happens and you end up paying for treatment, make sure you get proof that you offered it and you may be able to be reimbursed by the NHS.

Will I have to pay upfront?

Possibly – it depends on the country you’re visiting. In some you’ll be expected to pay for the healthcare upfront then apply for reimbursement. If this happens, make sure you keep all the paperwork. In some countries, you’ll need to make a non-refundable contribution to your care.

How long does a GHIC last?

The GHIC lasts for five years, just like the EHIC.

What happens if I don't have my GHIC with me?

If you need healthcare and you don’t have your card with you, you can get a provisional replacement certificate (PRC).

To apply for a PRC, call the NHS on: 0044 191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm UK time).

You’ll need to provide your National Insurance number and the name, email address and country of the clinic or hospital you’re being treated in. The PRC will be emailed there.

Can I use a GHIC if I am pregnant?

You can use the GHIC to access routine maternity care that can’t wait until you get home. But it won’t cover you if you’ve gone abroad specifically for the purpose of giving birth.

Will a GHIC cover COVID-19?

GHICs cover necessary healthcare while you’re away. So if you became ill with COVID-19, it should cover you.

Does my child need a GHIC?

Yes. All family members need their own GHIC. Parents will need to apply for a GHIC on behalf of children under the age of 16.

Where can I use a GHIC?

The GHIC is valid in EU countries. These 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 
  • Sweden

If I have a GHIC do I still need travel insurance?

Like the EHIC, the GHIC isn’t a substitute for travel insurance. It only covers you for state-provided healthcare, not for private treatment or things like repatriation if you want to come back to the UK for treatment.

It also doesn’t cover non-healthcare related mishaps, like lost luggage or your things getting stolen. So if you’re looking for travel insurance for your European trip, compare with us and find the right deal.

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