How to Qualify for Healthcare in Europe

Are you moving to Europe and want to save big by qualifying for national healthcare? Since laws and programs vary from country to country, qualifying for healthcare in European countries depends on where expats intend to live. This can help offset the cost of healthcare in Europe. Find out about the qualifications for healthcare in some of the most common European expat destinations: France, United Kingdom, and Italy.


In France, all residents are obliged by law to have health insurance. While most people are eligible for state health insurance, those who do not qualify (such as some expats) must have their own private insurance. Expats may qualify for health insurance by following the steps below:

health insurance in European Union

  1. First, a tax return must be submitted to CPAM (Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie), the French national social security organization, to prove eligibility for membership. In some cases, this tax return may be from the individual’s home country.
  2. Once a person becomes affiliated with the social security system, he or she receives a Carte Vitale (green card).
  3. This Carte Vitale provides proof of membership and access to French health insurance. Depending on the type of coverage received, this card either allows individuals to obtain healthcare at no-cost or a reduced cost.

The United Kingdom

In the UK, qualifying for healthcare under the National Health System (NHS) depends on several factors:

  • How long the expat intends to live in the UK (those intending to live there indefinitely may receive healthcare)
  • Whether the expat has a right to live permanently in the UK (or has a “route to settlement” to eventually allow permanent residency)
  • The age of the individual seeking healthcare (children under 16, or under 19 if obtaining full-time education, are eligible)
  • How long an expat has lived lawfully in the UK

The NHS has a thorough document that clearly explains whether a person is entitled to healthcare when they move.


Italy’s healthcare system is managed by the National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, SSN). Italy allows both EU and non-EU nationals to register with the SSN, and those who are not covered still qualify to receive free or low-cost emergency treatment when needed.

Registration is either automatic or voluntary depending on the length of the stay. Individuals register at the local level by the Local Health Authority Service (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, ASL).

To register for the SSN, individuals must do the following:

  1. universal healthcare in EuropeDetermine whether you qualify for mandatory/automatic registration or voluntary registration.
  • Mandatory registration – or by-right registration – is guaranteed to citizens staying for work, family, international protection, citizenship wait, fostering or adoption.
  • Foreign citizens with a stay permit for more than three months and not entitled to automatic registration with the SSN can apply for voluntary registration.
  1. Go to the local ASL office and submit registration materials. Note that voluntary registration with the SSN follows a yearly income-based payment.
  2. The SSN card is then issued at the moment of registration.

The InformaSalute guide to the national health service contains more information about qualifying for healthcare in Italy.

Other European Countries

Citizens of any of the 28 European Union countries are eligible for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is a free card that enables participants traveling to 28 other EU countries (as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) to receive healthcare under the same conditions and costs as people insured in the host country.

health insurance in European UnionEligible individuals can obtain their EHIC cards from their national health insurance providers. Expats should contact their home country’s national healthcare providers to learn more about eligibility.

The cost of healthcare in Europe varies depending on where the expat is living and what country the expat calls home. Use the references above to begin learning about healthcare in Europe.

While expats are waiting to qualify for national healthcare, it is crucial to be protected and have health insurance in the interim. Private international health insurance provides borderless coverage and safeguards expats against illnesses abroad particularly in the event of an emergency medical evacuation. Begin researching healthcare options today, private and domestic, to feel confident and safe when you arrive.

If you need private expatriate health insurance, contact Clements today to find a plan that meets your medical needs. Clements exclusively offers GlobalCare® international health insurance, that provides borderless coverage, 24/7 healthcare support in English, and emergency medical evacuation at no additional cost. 

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Call us today at +1.202.872.0060 or 800.872.0067 or e-mail to discuss your insurance needs.