Are you studying abroad in the EU? Don’t forget your student EHIC!

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Are you studying abroad in the EU? Don’t forget your student EHIC!

Individuals moving abroad to pursue higher education in the European Union should take the trouble to make sure they meet their health-related needs. A smart way of doing this is registering oneself for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) specifically for students. There are several benefits that a Student EHIC provides, which can come in handy if the individual finds himself in need of medical treatment when abroad.

What is a Student EHIC?

If a person is traveling abroad for study or work placement that has a duration longer than six weeks, the person will have to apply for a special Student EHIC to obtain access to state-provided healthcare facilities. A regular EHIC will not work for students. A Student EHIC is a health insurance card that can be used in any European Economic Area (EEA) country, and they can use them in Switzerland. Currently, in the EU, there are 200 million people who have their EHIC cards, which made it challenging for a country that wanted to create new ones after the UK left the EU through Brexit. Most colleges had started asking for EHIC cards as well when they were needed.

What makes this card special is that the person temporarily staying abroad will have access to medical treatment at the same cost as the residents of that country. While this treatment may be largely subsidized in some countries, in others, it is free. Pre-existing medical conditions requiring urgent attention during the student’s temporary stay abroad are covered under this card.

At times, students may travel to another EEA country for summer school. If the duration of summer school does not exceed six weeks, then the individual can apply for a regular EHIC. However, in the instance that summer school is immediately followed by a year abroad in an EEA country which does not come with a break for the individual to return to the UK, it would be necessary for the individual to apply for the Student EHIC before they leave the United Kingdom.

Students who are planning on traveling to EEA countries between the completion of summer school and the onset of their year abroad will need to attach a cover letter along with the application for the Student EHIC, mentioning these specific details along with the request for EHIC cover during that time.

How does a Student EHIC differ from a regular EHIC?

An individual who holds a regular EHIC or the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), the new card that is now rolled out, enjoys the benefits of the card for five years. Six months before the card expires, individuals are expected to have it renewed. On the other hand, a Student EHIC is given based on the duration of one’s educational course or work placement as long as the person intends to return to the United Kingdom after the given tenure, thus, the Student EHIC can be said to have a time-limited validity.

How do you apply for a Student EHIC?

To apply for a Student health insurance card, they need to provide some basic details at the time of application, such as the student’s full name, address, date of birth, and National Insurance or NHS Number for those living in Wales and England. For Northern Island, the Health and Care Number is to be given.

People cannot handle the application process for the Student EHIC online. It involves downloading the application form and submitting it to the NHS Business Services Authority. Apart from the personal details, the student will need to attach a little more documentation, such as:

  • A letter from the university at which the individual will be pursuing their course
  • Name and address of the educational institution
  • Duration of the course with the exact start and end dates
  • The individual’s overseas residential address, in the instance of a work placement.
  • Information about dependents also needs to be added to the form, if any.

If the individual has a regular EHIC, it will have to be returned when applying for the Student EHIC. Students who are pursuing summer school abroad will have to get an official letter from the Study Abroad Office, which will need to be attached to their application. Sometimes, students may opt for a placement abroad and receive a subsequent placement after a gap year. In such an instance, if the student is aware of the details of the second placement, they should submit these along with an explanatory letter, while submitting their application. If the student does not

possess the details of the next placement, then the moment they are made aware of it, they can request a letter from the university and use it to apply for another Student EHIC.

What to keep in mind?

Despite the strict rules laid down, if a student is traveling to visit or check out the location just before their placement or study course begins, there is a large possibility that they would have forfeited their regular EHIC when applying for the Student EHIC. This does not mean the individual is unable to access medical treatment. If needed, the person can contact the Overseas Healthcare Team and request for a Provisional Replacement Certificate which will serve as a temporary alternative.

Unless necessary, individuals should refrain from applying for a Student EHIC from abroad because of the hassles it entails. Also, the EHIC is only issued to a UK address. That is why applying before you make the move, is recommended.

Lastly, due to the upheaval caused by the COVID pandemic where students were requested to head to their respective hometowns and continue studying remotely, the question of whether a student would still be eligible for an EHIC does arise. According to the Withdrawal Agreement, students residing in any Member State can continue with their courses with access to the EHIC cover provided in the given state. Although the COVID scenario has presented unprecedented circumstances, the rules do not provide differential treatment based on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Finally, one must remember that a Student EHIC does not serve as a replacement for health insurance. It is just meant to supplement one’s access to healthcare. There are still many benefits covered under health insurance to which a person with an EHIC is not entitled so it is always recommended that individuals opt for health insurance and EHIC to reap the complete benefits.

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