For any UK resident thinking of travelling within Europe, obtaining a valid EHIC card is essential. If you have never come across this card before, then it is worth knowing about. Standing for ‘European Health Insurance Card’, it gives you access to free or discounted medical care in all 28 EU countries.
The EHIC is basically an arrangement between EU countries and those in the European Economic Area to allow card-holders access to reduced or free healthcare when travelling abroad. If you will be travelling within Europe, then it is worth getting one as it could save you a lot of money on unforeseen medical bills. The best thing is that obtaining a valid EHIC card is simple and totally free!
How do you apply for an EHIC card?
As noted above, getting a valid EHIC card is actually fairly simple and pretty quick. Having said that, the process can take up to 21 working days depending on how you apply so do not leave it too late. It is much better to apply well in advance so you have it ready to travel with. But what are the various ways in which you could go about it?
Apply via official EHIC website
The way many people will apply for their card now is to use the official EHIC website. This is an NHS run site that allows you to complete an online application to get the card. If you are a resident of the UK, then it is highly likely that you will be accepted for an EHIC card.
The application process online is straightforward and should not take too much time. Firstly, you would need to create an account to use – you will need your name and email address to do this along with deciding on a relevant password to use. A link will then be sent from the EHIC website to your email. Once you have clicked to activate this, you will then be eligible to go into the EHIC Services Portal and apply for your new EHIC card. Ordering an EHIC card online usually sees it delivered in around 7 working days.
Order a new card over the phone
If you would rather, then a new EHIC card can be ordered over the telephone. To do this, you just need to phone the NHS EHIC helpline on 0300 330 1350. Once you are through to an operator, they will be able to talk you through the application process. While many people can find this easier than battling technology to get it sorted, it is a longer process. Usually, your EHIC card would be with you in around 10 working days with this method.
Apply via the post
The last way you could go about applying is via the post. To do this, you would first need to print out a paper application form from the official EHIC website or get one from your local Post Office. Once you have completed the application form, you would need to post it too:
NHS Business Services Authority
European Health Insurance Card
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Once your form is received, your card would be posted back to you at the address you have given on your application form. This is probably the most time-consuming way to apply as it can take up to 21 working days to receive your new EHIC card.
Do not ask your Doctor for an EHIC
As of the time of writing, the above are the only ways to get a valid EHIC card. Many people think they can get one from their Doctor but this is not true. Trying this will only result in a wasted visit to your local surgery! It is not possible to get an EHIC direct from the Post Office either, although you can pick up an application form there usually.
Beware of scam websites
One thing to really be on the lookout for when it comes to applying online for an EHIC card is scam websites. The best advice is to only apply online via the official NHS EHIC website shown above. Although there will be other websites you can apply through when you search, most will charge you for using them. As the EHIC card is 100% free, this just does not make any sense. Save yourself some money and do not be tempted by other websites who make attractive promises about getting your card faster!
Does one EHIC cover the whole family?
One thing to know about when applying for your new EHIC card is that you cannot have 1 card to cover your whole family. Each application you make covers only 1 person which means everyone will need their own card. This is very important to know so you do not have any issues when needing medical treatment for children in Europe. If they do not have their own card, they will not be eligible for free or cheaper care!
So, how do you go about making sure all the family has a valid card to use? In simple terms, anyone over 16 years of age can apply for their own card. For anyone under 16 years of age, a parent or guardian must register as the main applicant first and then apply for additional cards as the application process progresses.
EHIC replaces the old E111
Some people believe that, if they have an E111 card, then they do not need the newer EHIC one. This is not true as the E111 cards were discontinued in 2005. If you are planning to travel in Europe now and want to be covered against any possible healthcare costs, it is the new EHIC card which you will require. An EHIC card will last for 5 years before you need to renew it. Keeping this in mind is crucial as, if your EHIC card has run out, then it will not be accepted.
Apply for your EHIC card now
As the above shows, applying for this useful card is both simple and straightforward. With a number of ways to go about it, you can simply choose the one you prefer most. Just remember to allow enough time before you leave to complete the application and for your EHIC card to arrive. With this in place, you can then enjoy your trip to Europe with total peace of mind.