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DEALING WITH BREXIT

British pensioners and students living in Europe urged to apply for new EHIC card

British pensioners and students living in an EU country are encouraged to apply for a new European Health Insurance card (EHIC) because current cards become invalid on December 31st.

British pensioners and students living in Europe urged to apply for new EHIC card
AFP

Under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement British pensioners who are S1 holders and students can continue to use their UK-issued EHIC card for basic health cover when travelling to another EU country as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Pensioners and students can also use the cards when returning to the UK but they now need to apply for new one.

Current EHIC cards are only valid until December 31st.

That means yet more paperwork – but there is a positive side to this, insist citizens' rights campaigners British in Europe.

“This is good news as the new EHICs will verify that you have continued rights to use them under the Withdrawal Agreement,” the group says.

The application process is fairly straightforward and can be done via this link.

The following categories of British nationals living in Europe need to apply for a new card:

  • If you have a registered S1 form or E121 because you receive a qualifying pension or benefit
  • If you have a registered S1 form or E121 because you're a family member of someone with a qualifying pension or benefit
  • If you have a registered S1 form or E106 because you're a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) by 31 December 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • If you have a registered S1 form or E109 because you're a family member of someone considered to be a frontier worker
  • If you are a UK student studying in the EU by 31 December 2020

If you are planning on travelling to the UK or another EU country before the end of the year but returning to your country of residence in the new year, then your current EHIC will cover you for basic health cover.

British students in the EU will be covered by their new EHIC until the end of the studies abroad and only in the country they are studying. They are also advised to have travel insurance.

Remember that an EHIC card does not cover all health costs in EU countries and is not an alternative to travel insurance. It does not cover mountain rescue or cruises, for example. For more info CLICK HERE.

For most Britons the EHIC card will no longer be valid after December 31st.

However anyone with a European Health Insurance card issued by their EU country of residence (which in France is known as a Carte europeenne assurance maladie or CEAM) can still use it for health cover when visiting other EU, EEA countries or Switzerland.

For British residents in the EU who are not pensioners, the UK government told The Local that their CEAM will be valid for any treatment they need while visiting the UK.

The UK government's site says: “If you live in the EU or move there before the end of 2020, your rights to access healthcare in your host country will stay the same from January 1st 2021 for as long as you remain resident.

This means you’ll: 

  • continue to get state healthcare in your host country on the same basis as other residents  
  • still be entitled to a European EHIC for travel, including visits to the UK 

People who already have a European card issued by their host country do not need to renew it.

Member comments

  1. The link is incorrect, it is for UK residents ONLY.
    If you are already resident outside UK, it says you need to call +44 191 218 1999 to renew your EHIC. I only found this info when my french postcode was refused and I clicked through to the help page! https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/help.do#address

    Given the questions on the form (that I wasted my time completing) you’ll possibly need your NI or NHS number and your EHIC PIN which is on your current EHIC card and begins UK.

    Please, THE LOCAL check your data before sending us all on a wild goose chase!

  2. The link is incorrect, it is for UK residents ONLY.
    If you are already resident outside UK, it says you need to call +44 191 218 1999 to renew your EHIC. I only found this info when my french postcode was refused and I clicked through to the help page! https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/help.do#address

    Given the questions on the form (that I wasted my time completing) you’ll possibly need your NI or NHS number and your EHIC PIN which is on your current EHIC card and begins UK.

    Please, THE LOCAL check your data before sending us all on a wild goose chase!

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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