The EHIC card

An EHIC card is issued to nationals of EU member states (as well as Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland) so they can access basic and emergency healthcare when visiting a fellow member country. This is an extremely useful system for many people from European countries who are traveling to and studying in others.

Depending on the length of visit, those travelling to Germany may find that the EHIC will offer sufficient cover, but it may be necessary to take out private health care insurance or register with the German public healthcare system. This article looks into how the card works in more detail.

European Health insurance Card (EHIC)

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme is an agreement by 31 countries to offer parallel public healthcare to citizens visiting from one of the other states. It means that for someone covered by, for example, the NHS in the UK, they can receive state public healthcare in Germany during a holiday or trip. The EHIC is, generally speaking, designed for tourists and is not intended for those who are moving to Germany to work or study for longer than six months. Having a European Health Insurance Card is a bit like being a member of a club, with the opportunity to access sister clubs when you are away from home.

What does the EHIC cover?

The European Health insurance Card allows registered individuals access to basic or emergency medical treatment when visiting another member state. This treatment may be free, or there may be costs involved; either way it will reflect the same cost which a national of the country you are visiting would be charged. This may therefore be different to the treatment you can access as part of your own national health service.

An EHIC card is perfect for those who are on holiday in Germany, or who are moving for a short-term period. In Germany, visitors with an EHIC card are able to access the same medical treatment as someone who has German public healthcare insurance. However, the EHIC card can only be used for a period of less than six months. Those moving to Germany for any period over six months need to sign up to the public healthcare system or take out private healthcare insurance.

Possession of a European Health Insurance Card does not cover those who are travelling to Germany specifically for medical treatments. It also doesn’t cover the cost of travel home due to illness or injury. It can cover treatment for pre-existing and chronic conditions, such as diabetes, however those who need to access equipment such as a kidney dialysis equipment or oxygen tank should contact the local German hospital first to make sure they will be able to get the treatment they may need.

Those moving to Germany for a stay of longer than six months should look into either public or private healthcare insurance, as the European Health Insurance Card is only intended for short stays.

Applying for public or private healthcare

Students should apply for public or private German healthcare cover before they arrive; in fact, this is essential for being granted a student visa.

Those moving to Germany to work, on the other hand, may need to wait until they are employed before they can be enrolled in the public healthcare system, in which case they can rely on cover from a European Health Insurance Card in the meanwhile. Either way, private or public healthcare is mandatory by law in Germany.

You can find out more about how to register for public healthcare insurance on our Public Healthcare in Germany page. You can also find out more about private health insurance on our Private Healthcare in Germany page.

How can I apply for the EHIC?

Applying for a European Health Insurance Card differs from country to country. In some countries, you will automatically get a card when you register with your own public insurance or state healthcare system. Others require you to specifically apply for the card via the national healthcare provider or using a dedicated online portal. It’s important to remember that you need a card for each member of your family, including dependents.

How quickly can I get the EHIC?

The time it takes to process your first EHIC card will depend on your home country. In most cases, it’s a fast and simple process. In some cases, your national health card will already incorporate an EHIC element, so you don’t need to do anything at all. It’s really important to check whether your card is in date. UK-issued cards expire after five years, for example. You can normally renew an EHIC easily and quickly online.

Using an EHIC in Germany

A European Health Insurance Card can be used in Germany to access the same level of medical care that someone with public health care insurance has access to. If you need to visit a doctor or dentist, make sure they are registered in the public healthcare systems. These practitioners are known as Kassenärzte and are not private doctors or dentists. Make sure you take your card along with you. General practitioners appointments (for every newly arising medical issue within a quarterly period) are charged €10 each time. This applies to nationals on the public healthcare scheme and internationals using European Health Cover.

Travel Insurance

Some people visiting Germany for a short while may find that they are better covered with travel insurance, which can be better for specific instances such as a skiing trip. Most holidaymakers visit the country with both a European Health Insurance Card, which is free, and some level of travel insurance.

Healthcare in Europe (EHIC)

Most countries in the EU and the EEA, as well as many more countries in Europe, have a state-backed public healthcare system which operates in tandem with private healthcare providers. In the UK, this is called the National Health Service, in France the La Sécurité Sociale, and in Italy the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale.

Those moving from one EU country to another will find that the public health system is usually fairly comparable to the one in their home country, in that it is funded by social security contributions and subsidised by the government through taxation. However those moving to Europe from the US, Latin America or Asia will find that is a very different.

Healthcare across Europe is generally of a high standard; in fact, France and Germany are said to have two of the best public healthcare systems in the world.

In Germany, there is a robust public healthcare system whereby members pay social security insurance contributions via their salary and employers match their contribution. Some individuals in Germany are able to apply for private health insurance, usually those in the highest wage brackets.

All EU members (as well as Norway, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland) are also part of the EHIC system, whereby residents of member states can access emergency and basic healthcare in other countries they visit. This treatment may be free or it may be charged, depending on the situation for nationals of the given country the card is used in.


You cannot access state healthcare in another country if you haven’t registered or are not in possession of your European Health card.

Other names for EHIC

It’s important to familiarise yourself with the name for an EHIC where you live so you can make sure you have the correct cover when you visit Germany. In Italy, EHIC cards are called TEAM cards, in France they are known as CEAM, and in Spain as a TSE. In Germany, the UK, and Ireland, they are referred to as EHIC cards.

Participating member states

The EHIC card is an EU-wide initiative, but it includes some additional countries which have chosen to participate in the scheme.

All of the 28 following member states of the EU participate in the EHIC system:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • UK*
  • Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland

*Note that the UK arrangement is likely to change after Brexit and almost certainly if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. UK residents moving to Germany should therefore seek to register with the German public healthcare insurance scheme or take out private healthcare insurance ahead of arrival in Germany.