Healthcare systems vary wildly around the world. You should know the ins and outs of the system in your chosen country to ensure you’re going to be able to look after yourself when you’re out there. From similar systems to the NHS to entirely private ones, knowing what will happen when you fall ill or get injured is going to be massively important.

Obviously we can’t cover every system in detail here, so again, research is going to be key. Just to give you an idea on a few different set ups, here’s quick rundown on the healthcare offered in the top six most popular destinations for British expats.


You must be a permanent resident or come from a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia to get access to Medicare. Luckily, the UK and Australia have an RHCA so you will be able to access their healthcare system.

With their public healthcare, you will not be able to choose your own doctor, while only medically essential healthcare is available under an RHCA. Elective or continuing healthcare is not covered under Medicare either.

Most Australians will top up their public funded healthcare by going private. While this means better access to care, it is an extra cost to consider before you move.


Spain has a public healthcare system that gives you access to free or low cost care. What you’ll need to do first is to get a Spanish social security number. This is fairly straight forward and involves a trip to the appropriate office with a few forms and your passport. All cities and most large towns will have an office so make sure you find your nearest one as soon as possible and get yourself set-up.

There is also the choice to go private if you wish.

healthcare in spain emigration checklist


France operates a public healthcare system, although there are private options available.

To be eligible for French state healthcare you will need to be a resident and have a valid residency permit. After that, you’ll also need to pay French social security contributions through paid work. That means without a job, you won’t be eligible so you’ll either have to pay the costs yourself or get some health insurance.

If you get access, you will still pay for your costs at first, but then up to 70% of the costs are reimbursed through the CMU, the French social welfare programme for health. The rest of the costs you’ll need to cover, which is why many who live in France pay for a top up health insurance scheme.


In America getting health insurance is going to be a top priority. There is no RHCA between the US and the UK, so if you fall ill or get into an accident you will be footing that bill and it’s certainly not cheap. Having health insurance means you’ll have a chance of being able to pay for any treatment you might need.

You may have heard of Barrack Obama’s changes to the American healthcare system. Despite US media reports of ‘socialism’, these changes haven’t made the system anything like that. These new rules have, for the most part, been about making insurance available to everyone rather than the healthcare itself.

There are various types of insurance available, so as you would with any other kind, shop around to find the deal and plan that best suits you.


Here healthcare is available to all citizens and permanent residents giving access to low cost care. They also use a Medicare system that you’ll need to register for when you arrive in order to be eligible. For this you will need a state Medical Card, so be sure to get your hands on one of these as soon as possible.

You can also use private healthcare to top up what the state offers.


Ireland has the public funded Health Service Executive which gives citizens and those with resident visas access to healthcare. This means that once you’ve got legally settled, you’ll be able to use the health system there. It might also be worth seeing if you are eligible for a Medical Card so that you can get some extra services subsidised.

Again with Ireland, there are private options available. They’re always worth looking into.

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