New free GHIC replaces EHIC – what that you must know

Before Brexit, and during this year’s Brexit transition period, most UK residents have qualified for a free EHIC. This entitles you to the same treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs that locals are entitled to, at the same cost, when travelling in the EU, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and some overseas territories.

Prior to a trade deal being announced on 24 December, it was expected that EHIC cover would end for most on 1 January 2021. But it’s now been agreed that UK nationals living in the UK who currently have an EHIC can continue to use it in the EU after 1 January 2021 until the card expires, even if that is years away. One major difference is that from 1 January 2021 you’ll no longer be able to use your EHIC in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, which are not part of the EU, but had accepted the EHIC from UK nationals.

Those who don’t currently have an EHIC or who need to renew their existing EHIC when it expires will now have to apply for a free GHIC instead. Like an EHIC, this will entitle holders to emergency or necessary state (not private) medical care for the same cost as a resident in the EU country they’re visiting; but it won’t cover you in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Like an EHIC, a GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance though – it does not cover everything, such as mountain rescue or being flown back to the UK for treatment. See our Free EHIC and Cheap Travel Insurance guides for full help. 

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