Travel to the EU after Brexit

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There have been many changes to travel to the EU that have come about as a result a of Brexit. These range from the amount of luggage to carry to your passport’s validity. What was once a guarantee of seamless entry to the EU is now much more complicated with a host of new rules in place since the exit of the UK.

However, the one silver lining amidst all the gloom is that the Brits can still use their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) to get emergency medical healthcare at sate run facilities within the EU.  In fact, holidaymakers have been recently reminded by the FCDO (Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office) to carry their valid EHIC or its replacement card the GHIC before planning a trip to any EU country. EHIC cards have a validity period of 5 years from the date of issue so those that renewed their cards in the winter of 2020 still have a few years’ worth of use for them. However, if the card is close to expiring it is best to apply for a new card that will be the GHIC issued as the substitute.

EHIC cards are only issued to special categories of UK nationals that are included in the Withdrawal Agreement. These include UK students studying in the EU, UK pensioners resident in the EU and all EU nationals living in the UK. All of them must be living in their respective locations before January 2021. However, the countries of Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway do not accept the EHIC or GHIC anymore. Still, there are around 32 million Britons that do not own a valid EHIC or GHIC with many of them still unclear about what health insurance entails when on travel overseas.

With more UK citizens now planning trips to the EU after the long drawn out COVID restrictions were finally lifted, it is imperative to make sure that they have their EHIC or GHIC cards ready for use when on the trip. A medical emergency is something that cannot be taken for granted, so it is best to ensure that they are prepared for any eventuality. While those with dual nationality do not qualify for an EHIC or GHIC, there are certain exceptions to the rule. These include those that were citizens of an EU nation before adopting UK nationality or got their UK citizenship via naturalisation.

Getting the GHIC

Those living in the UK will find there is not much of a difference between the two cards. The GHIC is also available for free and those wanting one can apply via the NHS website. While the card may have the term global, it is only valid for use in the EU. The UK government is in talks with other countries outside the EU for reciprocal medical agreements and will announce more to that effect later in the year.

Like the EHIC, UK nationals may use the GHIC to access emergency medical treatment at state healthcare facilities when on a trip to any of the 27 EU nations or to Switzerland. This includes treatments for routine medical care for pre-existing medical conditions. However, as all state medical healthcare is not free within the EU, as that offered by the NHS in the UK, there may be need to pay as small amount as contribution for treatment.

A point to note is that the EHIC or GHIC is no substitute for travel insurance because the former do not cover situations like travel plan disruptions or emergency rescue or repatriation costs.

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