Health care insurance and tax responsibilities for British expats in European Union

If you are planning on moving abroad within the EU for a few years or on a permanent basis, medical problems are probably the last thing on your mind. However, there are a few rules and procedures which apply to British expats living in the EU, and it is essential that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities.

EHIC Cards and Medical Cover   

Many expats mistakenly believe that the EHIC, or European Health Insurance Card, will cover their medical treatment overseas within the EU. This is not the case as the EHIC is designed only for people who are permanently resident in the UK and travel to Europe for a short time for business, study or on holiday. Similarly, private medical insurance is often geared towards tourists or temporary visitors, so if you planning on taking out medical insurance for any expenses incurred, you should check the policy carefully to ensure you are fully covered. It is worth having any policies checked over by a native speaker of the language in which they are written to make sure you don’t miss any key exclusions or clauses. There are separate arrangements for pensioners who are resident overseas but in receipt of the UK state pension, and the Department of Health can provide people with the correct documentation.


Many people mistakenly assume that even if they have left the UK permanently, they have the right to return for medical treatment if they need to. This is not the case and whether or not you are entitled to treatment on the NHS will depend on a whole host of individual circumstances. It is important to know exactly where you stand legally regarding free treatment, so do some research. What will not be covered, unless you have comprehensive private medical cover specifically designed for British expats overseas, is the cost of travel back to the UK, whether by air ambulance or regular flight.


If you are working overseas on a permanent basis, you will need to inform HMRC of your non-resident status as it will affect the amount of tax you have to pay. If you have bank accounts, investments or property which you rent out in the UK, you may still have to complete an annual tax return and pay any tax owing. It is a relatively straightforward process to do this online, or alternatively hire an accountant specialising in expat tax affairs to do it for you and minimise your liability.


Meet Up Groups for British Expats

Moving abroad and creating a new life in a different country can be really hard, especially when you have no friends or family to support you. It’s therefore not surprising that expats tend to enjoy each other’s company and support, and there are many associations and groups around the world which help with this.


One of the most popular websites with expats is simply called Meetup, and the beauty of this site is that anyone can register and set up their own group for a specific group of people in a defined area. The site isn’t aimed only at the expat community, but is a good starting point for making contact with other expat families or local who share similar interests or hobbies. You can also browse through the site before you leave the UK, and start emailing or contacting people so that you have already started building up a network of friends before leaving home.

English Language Newspapers

In areas where there is a high percentage of British expats one of the best sources of meet up groups is the local English language newspaper. As well as being a valuable source of news and local information, the paper will carry adverts for groups, societies and social events for the expat community. Most of these papers will also have a website, making it easy for expats to keep in touch wherever they are living.

International Schools

For families moving abroad with children, there will often be an active social scene around the local English-speaking school. For new arrivals it can seem intimidating if everyone else seems to have formed friendship groups already, but if expats make the effort to make friends and volunteer for everything going, it is possible to form a large circle of friends very quickly. Other parents can provide huge amounts of information about childcare, schooling and other issues such as accommodation too.

Caledonian and Irish Societies

Even if you don’t have a drop of Scottish or Irish blood, the Scottish and Irish societies across the globe can be great places to meet other expats as well as locals, and have a great time in the process. The Caledonian societies across the world hold Burns Suppers and ceilidh dances as well as promoting the interests of Scotland overseas. There are similar organisations for Welsh and Irish interests, but as yet there is not an established network of English societies.