Changes to travelling to the EU and access to healthcare after Brexit

The rules on travelling now the UK has left the EU are largely the same as they were when the UK was still part of the EU, but could change after 31 December 2020. Find out more about what could change and what to do if you’re affected.

Will I still be able to travel to the EU?

Yes, but the rules on travelling to and from European Union countries will change from 1 January 2021 now the implementation period agreed with the EU has ended. UK citizens will be allowed to stay in the EU for 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa, and the same will apply for non-resident EU citizens in the UK.

If you plan to travel to the EEA there are a number of things you will need to consider before you travel, and you may need to act now.

This might include obtaining a green card if you’re a motorist and checking the terms of any insurance policies you hold including travel insurance. There are also new requirements on pet travel.

The deal negotiated by the UK government will allow those issued with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before the end of 2020 to continue to use it before its expiry date. If you’re travelling to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, your EHIC will only be valid up to 31 December 2020. However, we strongly recommend taking out travel insurance regardless to cover all eventualities.

The government has announced plans to issue a UK Global Health Insurance Card. Further information on this can be found below.

The government has published information on travelling in the EU on the GOV.uk website.

You can also find out more about How Brexit could affect you on the FCA website.

Travelling to the EU from 1 January 2021

Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein will change from 1 January 2021. You’ll still be able to go to the EU, but you will have to check a few things, and possibly apply for extra documents.

Things you may need to do before you go include:

  • checking your passport
  • getting travel insurance that covers your healthcare
  • checking you have the right driving documents
  • organising pet travel - contact your vet at least four months before you go.

Before you book your travel, you need to check that both adult and child passports have at least six months to run before they expire.

Any new rules will apply to passports issued by the UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey.

Can I still use my current passport?

If you already have a passport, there’s no need to worry, it will still be valid until the expiration date. Existing rules will still apply.

Be aware that all new passports are now blue instead of burgundy red.

Early renewal of ten-year adult passports

If you renewed a ten-year adult passport before it expired, extra months may have been added to your new passport’s expiry date, making it valid for more than ten years.

Any extra months on your passport over the ten-year limit may not count towards the six months that must be remaining on your passport for travel to most countries in Europe.

Is my EHIC still valid and do I need travel insurance if I visit or live in the EU or EEA?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gave you access to state healthcare in the European Economic Area (EEA), plus Switzerland. You were effectively treated as a resident of the country were in. This allowed you to get treatment either at a reduced cost or for free by the state healthcare system of that country.

From 1 January 2021, the deal negotiated by the UK government will allow those issued with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before the end of 2020 to continue to use it before its expiry date. If you’re travelling to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, your EHIC will be valid up to 31 December 2020. However, we still strongly recommend taking out travel insurance regardless to cover all eventualities.

If you have annual travel insurance we recommend checking the terms of insurance policy to ensure it provides the cover you need. Should your insurance policy be impacted we expect your insurance provider to tell you.

Check for the latest information on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) online, or by phone on 0300 330 1350.

The government has announced plans to issue a UK Global Health Insurance Card. Similar to the EHIC, it will allow state-provided medical treatment if people fall ill or have an accident in the EU.

It will cover chronic or existing illnesses, routine maternity care and emergencies.

Specialised treatment, such as dialysis, will require ‘a prior agreement’ to make sure it is available.

Travel insurance and getting ill or injured abroad

From 1 January 2021, the deal negotiated by the UK government will allow those issued with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before the end of 2020 to continue to use it before its expiry date. The EHIC gives you the right to access emergency state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in those countries.

The EHIC card was never an alternative to travel insurance. It wouldn’t have covered private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property and was not valid on cruises.

Our advice remains that having travel insurance that covers your healthcare needs remains an essential requirement when travelling.

It’s important to make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy, and that you are happy with the level of healthcare and travel disruption cover it provides.

If you have an existing travel insurance policy that has been impacted due to the ending of the implementation period with the EU your travel insurance provider should let you know.

If you already have travel insurance to cover your trip, your insurer should let you know if there will be any changes to the way your policy is serviced.

If you have questions about what your travel insurance policy covers, you should contact your insurer.

Access to healthcare if you’re an EU national living in the UK

There are no changes to the rights and status of EU nationals currently living in the UK until 30 June 2021. That means you’ll be able to access the NHS free of charge if you are ordinarily resident in the UK.

However, you and your family should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK and protect your ability to access healthcare. The scheme opened on 30 March 2019.

What is the UK Global Health Insurance card?

The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) and the he European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) lets you get state healthcare in Europe free or at a reduced cost.

Anyone applying now will get the new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). They are both valid if you’re travelling to an EU country.

Anyone travelling to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, will no longer be covered and will need travel insurance with an appropriate level of healthcare cover to meet their requirements should the need arise.

Some people can apply for a new UK EHIC that they can continue to use from 1 January 2021 in the EU and will still include Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. People who can apply for the new card include:

  • UK students studying in the EU
  • some British State Pensioners who live in the EU and their families
  • EU nationals in the UK

Apply for a European Health Insurance Card or the UK Global Health Insurance Card by calling on 0300 330 1350. The card is free. Do not use any third-party sites: they are likely to charge a fee.

It’s important to know that none of the cards above will cover repatriation back to the UK free of charge. If you fall seriously ill or suffer a serious accident abroad, only travel insurance will cover you.

Will the new UK Global Health Insurance card cover me worldwide?

Not really. The “global” nature of the new card is likely to be limited to countries which the UK has an existing reciprocal agreement with. This will initially include Australia, New Zealand, Gibraltar, the non-EU nations of the former Yugoslavia, a scattering of UK territories in the Caribbean, plus the remote Atlantic islands of the Falklands and St Helena.

Can I still claim compensation for my delayed flight after Brexit?

EU Regulation 261 establishes the rights of passengers – including their right to compensation and assistance – if they are denied boarding against their will, or if their flight is cancelled or delayed.

Air passengers on a flight departing the UK will have the same passenger rights as before. This is because EU passenger rights legislation were retained in domestic law by the EU Withdrawal Act.

The Government has said flight delay compensation rules will remain the same, as it’s flight delay compensation rules will remain the same, because it has written EU261 into UK law.

If you’re on a flight to or from an EU country which – due to the airline’s fault – is delayed by more than three hours or your flight is cancelled altogether, you are still entitled to between £110 and £540 per person in compensation.

EU travel firms catering to UK consumers will also still have to provide compensation if their company goes bust.

Find more information on your rights for claiming compensation for flights to or from the EU and the UK on the CAA website or on the Money Saving Expert site.

Will roaming charges come back for using mobile phones in the EU?

EU rules and regulations on mobile roaming will no longer continue to apply. The four main mobile operators - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – have all said they have no current plans to reintroduce roaming surcharges.

This is not guaranteed so it’s possible roaming charges could be introduced. To safeguard consumers a £45-a-month limit on the amount that can be charged for using mobile data abroad will be introduced. Customers will have to opt in if they want to exceed this cap. Customers will be informed when they have reached 80% and 100% of their data allowances.

If you’re in Northern Ireland mobile phone operators will be required to take “reasonable steps” to help avoid customers being charged for accidental roaming because of receiving a signal from the Republic of Ireland.

Mobile roaming charges will depend on your network - but most of the big networks have said they will continue to offer free roaming.

The four main mobile operators - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - have said they have no current plans to reintroduce roaming surcharges. If you’re on other networks, you should check with your phone company for any extra charges.

The UK Government has passed a law to make sure operators continue to prevent your data roaming charges going beyond £45 per monthly billing period unless you actively choose to use more data.

But you should check what your mobile network says about roaming before you travel abroad.

Can I still travel with my pets between the UK and the EU?

Yes, UK citizens can still take dogs, cats and ferrets to and from the EU. Pet passports for travel in the EU are now no longer valid. Pet owners will need to contact their vets four months before any planned travel to the EU.

To make sure your pet can travel from the UK to the EU after 31 January 2020 in any scenario, you should contact your vet for the latest advice.

More information on the health preparations and documents you would need for travel to the EU, including information on the documents required to enter or re-enter the UK, is available on GOV.UK.

Can I still travel with my car between the UK and the EU?

Yes, you will still be able to take your vehicle with you when you travel to the EU. However, you may need to obtain a green card from your insurance provider. A green card proves you have the necessary motor insurance.

This includes travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Not having a green card could result in a fine or require you to buy additional insurance.

This will need to be on printed paper - PDFs on an electronic device such as a mobile phone will not be acceptable. Your motor insurance provider will usually provide you with one free of charge.

The Association of British Insurers has previously recommended you should contact your provider at least a month before you travel to request one.

If you’re living in the EU and are currently a UK licence holder you may need to exchange your licence for a local one. The deadline for this depends on the country you’re living in.

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