Understanding the New EHIC Residency Card

It is well documented that, as a result of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, the old EHIC cards will no longer be valid. In fact, for most people the EHIC card system will no longer be relevant at all. But if you are currently a pensioner and holder of an S1 form, a student studying in Spain, or a frontier worker, then there is a new EHIC travel card that you can apply for to continue and protect your existing health insurance coverage.


Here’s everything you need to know about the EHIC Residency card, including who is eligible for it and how to apply:

Who is Eligible for the New EHIC?

If you currently hold an EHIC card and are visiting Spain over the Christmas or New Year period then you can still use your existing EHIC card. In fact, as long as you enter the EU before the end of the year, your existing EHIC card will be valid until you return from your holiday.

If you live in Spain and hold an EHIC then you may be able to apply for a new EHIC card, but only in very limited circumstances. You can only apply for the new EHIC card if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You have a registered S1 form or E121 because you receive a qualifying pension or benefit
  • You have a registered S1 form or E121 because you're a family member of someone with a qualifying pension or benefit
  • You have a registered S1 form or E106 because you're a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) by 31 December 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • Have a registered S1 form or E109 because you're a family member of someone considered to be a frontier worker
  • You are a UK student studying in the EU by 31 December 2020

A Note for Students

If you are a student and already started your course before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, or are on a course in a UK university undergoing a placement period in Spain, then you will need to apply for a new EHIC card. This will cover your basic healthcare needs until your studies end. However, in these circumstances the EHIC will only cover you for the country that you’re studying in (unlike the previous EHIC card that could be used across the EU). You are also advised to still apply for private health insurance too, to ensure that you are covered for anything that isn’t covered by the EHIC card.

Applying for the New EHIC Card

If you are eligible for the new EHIC card then you can apply for the card right now. In fact, if you apply for your card now then you should receive it before the Brexit transition period ends on 31st December 2020: there is no reason to delay your application.

You can apply for the new EHIC card via the NHS website, and the application process is quick and easy. You’ll need to answer a series of questions and to register your details. You’ll then receive an email if your card has been approved, or if further evidence is needed. 

The official NHS guidance does remind us, though, that the EHIC is not a substitute for having travel or private insurance. Depending on the circumstances of your need for care, the card may not cover the full cost of your healthcare treatment. It also does not cover any costs incurred for repatriation and other non-emergency treatments.

If you are travelling to Spain or another EU country, you are advised to also take out private travel insurance to cover every eventuality and healthcare requirement while abroad. This is particularly important if you are thinking of living in Spain, or buying and using a holiday home in Spain, after the UK has officially left the EU.

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