Social security cover abroad
UK decision to invoke Article 50 of the TEU: More information
For the time being, the United Kingdom remains a full member of the EU and rights and obligations continue to fully apply in and to the UK:
Which country you're covered by depends on 2 factors:
- your work situation (employed, self-employed, unemployed, posted abroad, working across the border from where you live, and so on)
- your country of residence - not your nationality.
You may not choose which country you will be covered by.
When working or living abroad, you will have social security cover by either your home country or the host country. In either case, you'll need to make arrangements to make sure you stay covered after you move to your new country.
To avoid potentially serious problems and misunderstandings, find out about social security in your host country.
What to do if you are:
Living and working abroad
As a migrant worker in the EU - employed or self-employed - you should register with the social security system in your host country.
You and your dependants will then be covered by that country's social security system. Your benefits related to sickness, family, unemployment, pensions, occupational accidents and diseases, early retirement and death will be determined by the local laws.
In many countries, the benefits you're entitled to may depend on how long you've previously paid contributions for.
The country where you claim benefits must take into account all the periods you've worked or all the contributions you've paid in other EU countries as if you'd been covered in that country all along.
If it fails to do so, contact our assistance services for help.
Every period of work in the EU counts for benefits
Ania from Poland worked 6 years in Poland and then moved to Germany, where she worked for 2 years.
She then had a car accident which left her unable to walk, so she applied for an invalidity pension in both Poland and Germany.
The German authorities dismissed her application because she'd worked there for less than 5 years (the minimum period to qualify for a German invalidity pension).
However, in calculating Ania's working years, the authorities should have included the time she'd worked in Poland. This would have brought the figure to 8 years, well over the German minimum for qualifying.
So Ania was actually entitled to an invalidity pension from both Germany and Poland — each country paying a share proportionate to the years Ania had worked there.
Posted abroad on a short assignment (<2 years)
This will have no impact on your or your family's social security rights: health cover, family allowances, disability or old-age pension, etc.
To access healthcare services, get an EHIC card
Get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access healthcare services in the country you're posted to. You can get an EHIC from your healthcare provider or the social security authorities in your home country.
If you move your residence to your host country, ask the healthcare authorities in your home country for an S1 form instead. Give the S1 form to the host country's healthcare authorities on arrival.
To stay in your home social security system you will need an A1 form
This form proves that you are still covered by your home system while abroad - for up to 2 years.
- If you are an employee, make sure your employer gives you the A1 form;
- If you are self-employed, get the A1 form from the social security institution
you are registered with in your home country. To get the form, you have to prove that the activities you intend to pursue abroad are "similar" to those you pursued in your home country.
You should be able to present the A1 form to the authorities at any time during your stay abroad. If you're unable to do so, you might have to pay social security contributions there. If you are subject to an on the spot check by the labour inspectorate and you have a valid A1 form, your host country must recognise it.
The host country must recognise your valid A1 form.
Alan is a self-employed Czech construction worker who has gone to work in Ireland. Inspectors visited a construction site where he was working and claimed that Alan's A1 form was not valid; they wanted him to pay social security contributions in Ireland.
It was however not up to the Irish authorities to judge whether Alan was a genuine posted worker or not. Only his home country, where he was working before his posting and he will return to afterwards, can declare an A1 form invalid.
The Irish authorities had to acknowledge that Alan did not have to pay contributions in Ireland.
Can you stay longer than 2 years?
In some exceptional situations, your employer may ask for an extension of your initial posting period until your planned work has been completed:
- If it becomes clear that your work can't be completed within 24 months because of unforeseen circumstances that delay your work, for example, an environmental disaster, delays in delivery, etc.
- If you fall seriously ill for a couple of months.
In such cases, you can request an exemption to remain covered by your home social security system for the duration of your posting. To get an extension, you must request it from the authority that issued your A1 form before the end of the initial posting period.
Exemptions vary from case to case and require an agreement between the authorities in each country involved: your home country and your host country. Exemptions are valid only for a specific period and an exemption request has to be submitted before the end of the posting period.
In any other cases, if you continue to work abroad for more than 2 years without an exemption, you will have to switch to the local social security system and pay contributions there.
If you don't want to switch systems, you have to stop working for at least 2 months after the allowed period of 24 months is over.
A civil servant seconded abroad
If you're a civil servant seconded to work in another EU country (at an embassy, consulate or other official institution abroad), you'll be covered by the social security system of your home country.
This means your benefits related to sickness, family, pensions, occupational accidents and diseases, early retirement and death will be determined according to your home country's laws.
A different set of rules applies if you become unemployed while on secondment.
Working in one country, living in another (cross-border commuter)
As a cross-border commuter - whether you are employed or self-employed:
- You pay social security contributions to and are covered by the EU country where you work
- You can, however, obtain medical treatment in the country where you live.
- If you lose your job, you should apply for benefits in the country where you live.
Social security contributions - paid only in the country where you work
Balázs used to live in Hungary and work in Austria. During that time, he paid his contributions in Austria. However, the Hungarian authorities are now claiming he should have paid contributions in Hungary.
Cross-border commuters in the EU are covered under one national social security system only — in the country where they work. The Hungarian authorities' claim is wrong.
Working in more than one country
The basic rule is that if you work in more than one EU country, but carry out a substantial part of your professional activities in your country of residence, you are covered by the social security system in your country of residence.
A 'substantial part' of your activities means at least 25% of your working time and/or income. If you are self-employed, turnover and the number of services provided can also be relevant when calculating this percentage.
You are covered...
are employed but have no substantial activity in your country of residence
where your employer's head office or business is located
work for two employers with head offices in different countries, one in your country of residence and one outside your country of residence but have no substantial activity in your country of residence
where your employer's head office or place of business is located outside your country of residence
work for two employers with head offices in different countries outside your country of residence but have no substantial activity in your country of residence
in your country of residence
are self-employed and have no substantial activity in your country of residence
where the centre of interest of your activities is located
are employed in one country and carry out self-employed work in another
in the country where you are employed
Looking for work
Receiving unemployment benefit?
If you're receiving unemployment benefit from the EU country where you became unemployed, going abroad to look for work won't affect your (or your family's) rights to health cover, family allowance, invalidity or old age pension rights, etc.
To ensure that you and your family have health cover during a temporary stay abroad, don't forget to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Once you've found a job, various social security rules may apply.
Not receiving unemployment benefit?
If you're not receiving benefit from the EU country where you became unemployed and move to another EU country to look for work, the social security authorities will decide by which social security system you'll be covered (health cover, family allowance, etc…).
The social security authorities determine this with the help of a list of criteria including:
- duration of stay
- family status and ties
- housing situation
- place of latest professional or non-profit activity
- nature of professional activity
- where you reside for tax purposes.
The country responsible for your social security may make your entitlement to benefits dependent on how long you've previously paid contributions for. However, it will have to take into account all the periods you've worked or all the contributions you've paid in other EU countries as if you'd been covered in that country all along.
If it fails to do so, contact our assistance services for help.
As a newly-arrived jobseeker, you have a right to reside in that country to look for work for up to 6 months - and longer, if you can prove you're still looking for a job and have a good chance of finding one.
So be sure to keep copies of:
- your job applications
- any invitations for interview
- any other replies you receive.
EU rules don't oblige your new country to grant income support or any other kind of welfare assistance to jobseekers looking for a job for the first time in that country.
Check whether you're entitled to income support as a jobseeker in your new country
Björn from Germany had been receiving his German unemployment benefits in Belgium. When his U2 form (formerly E 303 form) expired, Björn decided to stay on in Belgium and apply for income support there.
The Belgian authorities turned down his application. Under Belgian law, Björn wasn't entitled to income support in Belgium, as he'd never worked there.
Under EU rules you have no automatic right to income support (or any other kind of assistance) as a first-time jobseeker in another EU country. But you might be entitled under national rules - it's always worth checking with the local authorities.