If you are proposing to retire to France, or to look for work, for those living within a country in the EEA (European Ecomomic Area) a certificate of health entitlement is in place to assist with free movement around the EEA.
These certificates of entitlement have been known as 'E' forms, but in May 2010 they were replaced by 'S' forms.
There are also 'A' forms covering cross-border workers and 'U' forms covering unemployed persons, sometimes used in conjunction with an 'S' form.
The Form 'S1' (formerly E106/E121) is a certificate of entitlement to health care in another EEA country, provided via the social security authority in your home country.
The form means that you will get access to health care in France on the same terms as French nationals, except that you will not need to pay French social security health contributions for the duration of the S1.
When you arrive in France, you need to present the form to your local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM), the French health authority.
If you enter employment/business the S1 ceases to be valid, and you will be required to pay social security health contributions.
An S1 Form is also often issued to someone whose family relocates to France whilst they continue working in the UK or other EU country.
The precise rules of eligibility of the S1 differ between countries within the EEA. This guide is written primarily for those arriving from the UK.
For those who reach the age of retirement, and in receipt of a State Pension from their home country, S1 cover is on a permanent basis.
Otherwise, if you are under the age of retirement the cover is for up to two and a half years.
This limited entitlement also only applies if you have a satisfactory national insurance contribution record in the UK.
To assess your entitlement the UK authorities will examine your contribution record over the three full tax years prior to your departure. That is to say, if you were leaving the UK in 2013, the authorities would look at your contribution record for the three years ending 2012. You need to have paid sufficient national insurance contributions over this period to obtain full entitlement.
Accordingly, if you have paid into the UK social security system for (say) 25 years, but you have not done so in recent years, you would not have any entitlement to cover. In these circumstances, until you find employment/start a business, or until you reach retirement age, you would need to take out private medical insurance.
Note also that it is full tax years, so those contributions you pay in the year you leave the UK will not count in the initial calculation, although they would be taken into consideration if you had obtained a basic right to entitlement from previous years.
You may also be able to obtain an S1 if you are on short term incapacity benefit. Those on long-term incapacity benefit should make application for an S1 Form.
The precise duration of the S1 will also depend on when you vacate the UK, and few are entitled to the full 2.5 year cover. Those with a full contribution record up to the point of their departure and vacating the country mid way through the year would normally be the only ones entitled to 2.5 years. The entitlement always runs from January to January, ie, January 2013 to January 2015.
The evidence suggests that self-employed persons tend to get a lot less than the full 2.5 years cover because of the way in which their national insurance contribution record is calculated.
If you are coming from the UK the Form S1 is supplied by the Department for Work and Pensions, Pension Service, International Pension Centre, Tyneview Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE98 1BA. Telephone: 0191 21 87777.
Our strong advice would be that you discuss your circumstances with the Newcastle office before you relocate to France so that you are entirely clear as to your eligibility and the duration of your cover.
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