Healthcare in Spain for UK passport holders – the GHIC

GHIC and how it works with your visa

Now that the UK is no longer part of the European Union, there are two types of healthcare cover available when travelling overseas – the UK GHIC (UK Global Healthcare Insurance Card) or if you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK EHIC (European Healthcare Insurance Card).

For most people, the UK GHIC replaces the UK EHIC for new applications, although if you have the EHIC card, you can still use it until the expiry date.

What health cover is provided by the GHIC/EHIC?
Both cards give you access to medically necessary state provided healthcare while staying temporarily in an EU country, including things like:

  • emergency treatment and visits to A&E
  • Treatment for a long term or pre-existing medical condition
  • routine maternity care, unless you’re going abroad to give birth

Remember that not all state healthcare is free within the EU/Switzerland so you may have to pay for services that you would get for free on the NHS.


Where to apply for a new GHIC/EHICcard
You can apply for a new card on the NHS website here and which card you’ll receive depends on your specific circumstances.

When to apply for for a new card
You can apply for a replacement EHIC/GHIC within 6 months of your current card’s expiry date. If you’re coming up to the holiday season, be sure to apply in good time, as demand is likely to rise and every family member will need their own card.

How much does a new card cost?
Nothing – both cards are available free of charge – be careful of some rogue websites trying to charge for the application.

Does the GHIC/EHIC provide cover in all countries?
No – the cards only provide cover in certain countries, as follows;

A UK GHIC or existing EHIC covers you when visiting an EU country and Switzerland. A UK GHIC may become valid in more countries in the future.

A new UK EHIC covers you when visiting an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland.

Good to Know
If you have applied for a GHIC/EHIC and it doesn’t arrive in time for your trip, or you forget the card, you can get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) from NHS Overseas to prove your entitlement to medically necessary healthcare if needed.

The NHS UK website has lots of information about the GHIC here.

GHIC/EHIC, the S1 and a non-lucrative visa (NLV)
Healthcare cover in Spain is a key part of the residency application process, either with a visa or an EU passport.

If you haven’t got private health insurance (for example, if you’re using an S1 for health cover) then it’s a good idea to have a GHIC/EHIC to fill in any gaps in healthcare cover while you are registering your residency and processing the S1 with Spanish social security (INSS).

The information in this article was current on the date published.
Article last reviewed/updated 05.08.2022

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