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The 'EHIC' Card Explained

- Updated: 11/10/2014

The EHIC system has received much bad press of late, largely due to some changes in certain EU regulations which has effected the application and issue process – mainly effecting UK pensioners, or those who have taken early retirement and are living in Spain.

The 'EHIC' Card Explained

What is it ?

The EHIC ( European Health Insurance Card ) is basically the replacement for the old E111 for UK residents. E111's have not been valid for almost 5 years. The EHIC can be used to cover any medical treatment provided by the state that you may require due to accident or illness during your time in Spain*.

* EHIC cards are usually valid for 5 years.

What is covered ?

The EHIC may not cover all of the treatment that you could normally expect within the UK and as such you might need to make a contribution towards the care you receive.

The card may also be used to receive treatment for existing illnesses and diseases, but there are certain conditions, so if this applies to you please check with your healthcare provider before you travel. Maternity care is also covered by the EHIC whilst you are away, but if you are travelling to a country specifically to have a baby then you will need to complete an E112 form. You should speak to your healthcare provider for more information about this before you travel.

The EHIC may cover not all your required medical costs, and as such it is advisable to arrange travel insurance to ensure that you are fully covered for all circumstances that may arise. Importantly, you are NOT covered with EHIC if you are travelling abroad specifically to receive medical care.

The EHIC will NOT provide repatriation back to the UK in the event of serious illness.

Who is eligible ?

If you are ordinarily resident within the UK then you are eligible to be issued with an EHIC by the UK. If you are NOT a UK national, there could be certain restrictions in place with regards to what treatment you may be entitled to, and as such you should check with your own country's embassy first of all.

NOTE : If you are a Spanish resident, you should click HERE for further details.

If you are coming to Spain to work for a UK company or are self-employed within the UK , you are entitled to a UK-issued EHIC and this includes any dependants who may be going with you for up to one year. The qualifying requirement here is that HM Revenue and Customs confirm that you are continuing to pay compulsory UK National Insurance contributions. If your employment / self-employment is going to last longer than 12 months then you may be able to continue paying your compulsory UK National Insurance contributions and use your EHIC, but you should contact your nearest HM Revenue & Customs office for more specific advise about how to arrange this.

The EHIC is NOT valid for those moving abroad to live or those going abroad to work for a foreign employer.

What do I need to do to get one ?

To apply for an EHIC you will need to provide your name, date of birth and NHS or National Insurance number. In Scotland the NHS number is known as the Community Health Index or CHI number and in Northern Ireland it is known as the Health and Care number.

You can also apply for an EHIC for your spouse, partner and any children up to the age of 16 (or 19 if they are in full-time education) in your care at the same time as applying for your own card. You must be over 16 to apply as a main applicant.

If you lose or have your EHIC stolen within the UK then you will need to apply for a replacement. If it is lost or stolen abroad then you will need to apply for a replacement upon your return to the UK. If you require healthcare whilst you are abroad and have lost or had your EHIC stolen, then you will need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK and obtain an EHIC Provisional Replacement Certificate.

Renewal of your EHIC should be done 6 months before the expiry of the old one.

Where do I apply ?

Applying for an EHIC online remains the quickest and easiest method of application, and it is worth trying this first of all by clicking through to the Department of Health website, however, there are certain cases where postal applications can only be submitted. These are :

1.) If you are a Student in Spain

2.) If you are working in Spain for a UK Employer or registered UK self-employed.

3.) If you are receiving any state pensions or benefits from the UK

4.) If you are dependant on a UK National

If you are planning to remain in Spain on a more permanent basis, you may wish to click here to read How to apply for free state healthcare in Spain..

** 10.10.2014 : An informative Youtube guide on the subject issued jointly by the Dept of Health in the UK and the British Embassy in Madrid can be seen by Clicking the link HERE

Comment on this Article

When I apply to your official site they say I have bad credentials, I do not understand this. please reply.
Joan Messer - Sun 17th Mar 2019
Hi trying to renew the family's cards for a hol were going on in may...Our cards run out end of feb 2018 but its not clear what numbers i need to put into what box in know the PPSN number is the one starting UK but the box tells me thats the wrong number and what is the EHIC card number as if i put in the long number on the card it tells me its too long
Simon Gillett - Thu 26th Oct 2017
Mark : The PPSN no. should be shown on the right hand side of the card, starting with "UK"... HOWEVER : If your old card expired over 2 years ago the system would no longer recognise the PPSN number, in which case you will have to make a new registration
Tumbit - Admin - Sun 7th Dec 2014
Hi I keep trying to put my numbers in to renew my card keeps saying too long and wrong ppsn .could you tell me what to put. Many thanks.
Mark Hill - Sun 7th Dec 2014
Hi Mr. Grumpy, Yes I have been working legally and paying into Spanish SS system.
Lynn - Sat 14th Apr 2012

Lynn, you can read how to apply forr the Spanish version of the EHIC card (Called the TSE card) by clicking HERE.

Tumbit - Admin - Sun 8th Apr 2012
Lynn : Have you been working here legally and paying into the Spanish SS System ?
Mr Grumpy - Sat 7th Apr 2012
Can anyone tell me how to apply for a Spanish EHIC card. I belive that I cannot apply for a UK one as I have been living in Tenerife for 10 years.
Lynn - Sat 7th Apr 2012
Trying to renew my ehic card, where is the card number and ppsn number I have put in numbers from my card but it says number too long. Can you explain which numbers to input please?
James Hayles - Sun 15th May 2011
Thanks, great site!
Mike Cliff - Fri 9th Jul 2010
Hi, I hope this may be on interest to any British residents here who currently have health care either through a "dummy" autonomo, private medical insurance or the Valenciano cuota scheme. Briefly, a bill has been introduced into Congress (14/05/2010) which would require the Spanish Government to introduce a free and universal healthcare system for all residents (including foreigners) from the start of next year. The bill explicitly removes the need to pay into the Social Security system as a condition of accessing the health services here. Although there is a long and complex story behind this, the key points were unanimously agreed by all main political parties (PP, PSOE, IU ) back in September of last year, and the proposal received the support of the Government in April (although without a commitment to a firm timetable). The current bill restates what has already been agreed but with a timetable. If the bill is appoved , Spain will have a system virtually identical to the NHS.
Tim C - Mon 28th Jun 2010