GHIC for medical care abroad

How long does it take to get a GHIC card?

4 min read |

If you're planning on travelling to the EU, you may be wondering how long does it take to get a GHIC card?

The GHIC card is an essential document that allows you to access healthcare cover in Europe and Switzerland.

It replaces the EHIC card for UK nationals after Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

This article will cover your questions about the card, including how long does it take to get a GHIC card before you travel.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  • The GHIC is a card that allows you to receive healthcare while abroad in an EU country or Switzerland. 
  • Most UK citizens are eligible for a GHIC under the Withdrawal Agreement 2021. 
  • It’s easy to apply for a GHIC online, after which your card should be with you in around 10 days. 
  • Remember that the GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance which covers medical expenses in certain conditions or events.
What is a GHIC

What is a GHIC card?

GHIC stands for Global Health Insurance card. 

The GHIC does much the same job as an EHIC, which many people in the UK previously had. 

If your EHIC is still valid, you can continue using it and will only have to apply for a GHIC when the EHIC expires. 

It is one of the many changes that affects UK travellers after Brexit, so do ensure that you have the correct documents before you travel. 

Medical treatment in EU for UK citizens

How is it used?

If you need medical attention while abroad that can’t wait until you are home, your GHIC can be used to access treatment. 

This treatment can range from routine to emergency, including maternity care, oxygen therapy and kidney dialysis. 

It also covers routine checks for any long-term or pre-existing medical conditions which you may need while away. 

If you’re wondering how long does it take to get a GHIC card – keep reading to find out.

Healthcare for UK travellers in EU

Where can you use the GHIC?

You can use your GHIC in any EU country for state medical treatment, meaning that it can’t be used for private care. 

You can also use a GHIC or EHIC in Switzerland which is not part of the EU or European Economic Area (EEA).

However, to use it there you must be a British or Swiss national, EU citizen or be a refugee or stateless person. 

You cannot use a GHIC or EHIC in EEA countries Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

Get medical care in EU with the GHIC

Do you have to pay for treatment while using a GHIC?

You may or may not have to pay for treatments you receive while using your GHIC. 

This is because the GHIC entitles you to the same treatment as nationals of the country you’re in, at the same cost. 

So you might have to pay for some treatments that are usually free on the NHS, depending on the rules for each country. 

You should keep any receipts of expenses you pay for medical care to present to your travel insurance broker.

Hospital won't accept GHIC

What if a hospital doesn’t accept the GHIC?

As part of the withdrawal agreement, UK citizens have the right to access treatment in EU state hospitals. 

If, for some reason, the hospital doesn’t accept your GHIC, you can direct them to the NHS pages detailing the rules

Remember that even with a GHIC you should always have travel insurance with medical cover. 

This is because the GHIC doesn’t cover all medical expenses and situations, such as repatriation.

How to apply for a GHIC

You can apply for a GHIC on the NHS website through an online form.

It is a free service, so beware of other sites asking you to pay for it. 

If you want to know how long does it take to get a GHIC card – keep reading to find out.

Apply online for GHIC

What information do you need to apply?

When applying for you GHIC ensure you have the following personal information to hand:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • National Insurance or NHS number (England and Wales)
  • CHI number (Scotland)
  • Health and Care number (Northern Ireland)
Provide personal details for GHIC

Providing information for your GHIC

When you correctly complete the application online, the NHS should have all the details that they need to process your application. 

They will carry out an identity and residency check to ensure that you live in the UK and are applying for the right card. 

Sending evidence for your application

If they are unable to confirm your residency, they may ask for evidence to be sent to them. 

For UK nationals this could include a utility bill or something with your name and address on it. 

But for non-UK nationals you will need to give evidence that confirms your EU Settlement Scheme (EU SS) status. 

The evidence can be sent to their email: or postal address:


UK GHIC applications

PO BOX 854

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE99 2DE

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How long does it take to get a GHIC card?

After you have completed your application for the GHIC online, it can take around 10 days to arrive.  

It’s best to get your card before making any travel plans, as posting or unexpected issues with your application could cause delays. 

If you don’t have your card and you need emergency treatment while you’re abroad, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC).

This can be done through NHS Overseas Healthcare Services


Travel insurance GHIC

How to use your GHIC card

If you need medical treatment while you’re abroad in any country that recognises the GHIC, you can use it to get state treatment.  

It covers both routine medical care as well as emergency appointments – but travel insurance is also required. 

This is because the GHIC doesn’t cover every medical eventuality, so it’s best to have secondary cover. 

It’s also important that you are not travelling to another country solely to receive treatment, as the GHIC won’t cover you for this.

Other information about the GHIC

  • If you have an existing valid EHIC card you’ll only have to apply for a GHIC when it expires
  • The GHIC is valid for 5 years, so be sure to renew it in time for your travels
  • You must always take out a travel insurance policy with medical expenses covered when travelling
UK citizens need a GHIC

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