Long-stay visa and medical insurance

Hi All,
We are now pretty sure that we will be moving finally to our house in France in September. We will apply for visas three months beforehand but will need medical insurance to cover us until we can get French healthcare (we are both retired and will get S1 forms). Is it necessary to get cover for more than three months - this may not be enough time for us to get cartes vitales? Does the insurer have to be French or can I get this in the UK? Can anyone give me a hint as to which company I should approach?
Thanks for any clues.

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@fabien is our tried and trusted Insurance guru.


It can take more than 3 months to get into the system, and has been know to take a full year. Fabien has visa compliant policies that turn into mutuelles once you are in. Click on ‘insurance’ top left of your screen.

In theory you can go with either French or foreign insurers but the workers at TLS may be more picky with foreign insurance documentation. That’s not necessarily a big deal but that’s good to know, especially considering that most French insurers can provide documentation in English anyway (at least for that type of policy). As mentioned by Stella and Jane (thanks to them) I can also provide visa insurance policies which have been battle tested.

Many thanks, Fabien. Being retired, I see that the Embassy will accept an S1 in place of the medical insurance. Am I correct in thinking this? And, if so, how does it work - apply for the S1 in the UK and take that to the consulate? I can hardly go to France to get the S1 validated without the visa having been issued in the first place. See Moving to France from UK: Catch-22 issue for pensioners and visa S1s Has anyone tried this?

Hi Santiago… the UK government site does warn folk to take out Medical Insurance and not rely totally on their UK cover…
Once “logged into the system”, the S1 will entitle the Holder to the same level of Health Cover as the National of whichever country the S1 holder is hoping to visit/reside (France in your case).
and since France does not pay for 100% medical costs, even folk with S1 cover can find themselves facing huge bills.

be warned.

Thanks, Stella. Yes, I get that and will have to cover any excess (which could be quite a lot, accepted). But how can I present a valid S1 at the consulate to get a long-stay visa when the S1 has to be validated in France first? Or is the S1 in the UK acceptable to the consulate as it is? What does ‘logged into the system’ mean without me going to France first? I can’t get an S1 in the UK more than 90 days in advance of emigrating, not just visiting.

Once you get to France you’ll need to present your S1 to the Health folk and get your health dossier opened up and agreed … this is what can take the time… several months usually.

So is this just a bad joke? - https://static.tlscontact.com/media/gb/important_update_on_health_insurance_for_ls_visitor_visa_2021.05.14.pdf

Request your S1 asap. I believe it’s now 90 days ahead of needing it that you can request. They will need to know your French address to send it to. Tel 0191 2181999.

As you’re presumably not started residence in France before 31dec2020, anything you can find out from them and share, as to whether state pension retirees will still get uprated the same as pensioners remaining in the UK, might help others who follow you.

PS I would strongly advise taking out insurance that will cover the sometimes quite significant gaps in what the basic French Health Service (and therefore your S1) will cover and what you could find yourself paying.

Fabien has “been there and done that” in this particular area of insurance. It took me into the 8th month to finally get registered in the French Health Service and that was with a lot of chasing up, at UK and France ends, and I am s simple case fully documented as present in both countries.

Lastly as you’re just embarking on this, never let any document out of your sight and never hand or send any document to any service here without photocopying it front, back and sideways and preferably loading it up to a secure server or emailing it to yourself as well. You will often be asked to supply whatever has already been provided. Learn to smile as you hand it over again :slight_smile:

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The validation of the S1 in France is to get access to the health system, not to get the visa. So you will arrive in France with a visa, and an S1 that will be totally meaningless to any health establishment you need to visit!
And it will take months to get the S1 registered and turned into a carte vitale. So during that time you will have to pay all costs, and some may be reimbursed from date of acceptance of you application by health body - but that can be a battle too.

And until that point you will not have a social security number so you can’t take out a mutuelle (top-up cover). The french state cover is generally only 50-70% of costs. If you are in reasonable health and are not accident prone that is not necessarily a big issue, but need to be aware of this before making a decision not to take out PHI. (We only have a mutuelle for hospitals, not day to day stuff).

At the time of Brexit the NHS’s European Health card was a potential halfway house on the way to the Carte Vitale and I think remains so, but now would need to be the new, post-Brexit card and this wouldn’t cover you for everything. Nevertheless, i’ts useful to have. We live in France and take them with us whenever we’re popping down to Spain.

Presumably you have the French equivalent rather than a UK issued E111.

No, it’s issued by the NHS. As soon as we cross the border from France, unfortunately our rights are no different to thoseof UK residents.

Well then it won’t work ? Or am I missing something ?!

Not exactly, it’s intended for emergency treatment rather than existing medical conditions. As far as I understand, despite Brexit the UK European health card continues to function for UK citizens - regardless of which country they’re resident in. One simply had to change to the new card when Brexit happened:

Hi All,
I have been having a long search on the internet and making phone calls to various organisations who have lots of people who want to talk to them but apparently only one person answering. Good practice for when we finally go to France, I guess.

Both the official French visa website in the UK and the UK gov website say that you can ask for the S1 to be sent to an address in the UK and it can then be used to help obtain a visa, provided that you are in receipt of a UK state pension and live in the UK. This seems to bypass the need for private medical insurance for one year (in my case, costing £3,750 and something a bit less but similar for my wife).

The downside is that PMI gives full cover including all sorts of unlikely but expensive emergencies and the cover given by the S1 is less, being the same as the basic French cover. In the event of an event with slow onset, one could return to the UK for treatment. In the event of a sudden occurrence (heart attack), one would have to pay the extra cost in France. Assuming that the time for a carte vitale is, conservatively, about eight months, the risk of medical expenses over, say, £5000 is quite small (compare with the cost of the PMI). Worth the risk, surely?

I’ve got both, both issued by UK

I do feel a second class citizen though, somehow as it’s a different sort of EHIC apparently.

Emergency treatment is free in France for everyone. However non-emergency hospital treatment is not. So (eg) you have a road accident/heart attack you would be dealt immediately with by the emergency services for free. However, if this then resulted in follow hospital operations and treatments this would not be free, and this is where you can rack up huge bills (American style huge). And would not be in a state to go back to the UK without high costs either. Until you get into the health service you would also be liable to pay for investigations if, for example, you developed worrying symptoms of something (cancer, kidney problems, a chronic condition) And these are not cheap. OK you could go back to the UK and wait in a long queue, and maybe have to stay in UK, or deal with it here.

So it is a choice you have to make about your attitude to risk and whether a €25,000 bill would be payable.

You should also check what your third party liability would be if any accident resulted in legal bills and claims from others.

(Edit, just to add that I am not a fan of insurance companies and we don’ take out policies unless we feel we have to. So no pet insurance, no full mutuelle, no travel insurance within EU. But in your position I might cough up. Have you checked the cost via the insurance icon top left of your screen?)

Just a reminder that the cheapest ambulance trip taking someone back to UK cost £4000 a couple of years ago… possibly/probably more expensive now.

Sadly the person who had the accident here in France… did not have insurance but the family clubbed together to get that person back to UK asap.