Spanish state healthcare

Galicia has generally excellent healthcare provision, but access to this for some foreigners arriving in Galicia is currently uncertain.

In July 2012 Spain introduced new rules that removed state healthcare access from any immigrant not paying into the Spanish social security system (which for an EU immigrant below pensionable age without an employment contract means registering as “autonomo” and paying a minimum of around 3000€ per year in contributions).

Galician social protection healthcare program

The Galician regional government, however, appears to not agree with the new rules and is continuing to provide healthcare access to anyone residing legally in Galicia who doesn’t have sufficient economic means to purchase private healthcare …but this is a position that could easily change at any moment.

If you can’t access public healthcare via an S1 form issued by your previous country of residence or country of origin then this is the route to follow to try to get free access to Galician healthcare. As part of this process you will, however, need proof that you have no S1 entitlement from your home country and so requesting an S1 form is always the place to start.

This poster is currently (March 2015) being displayed in health centres:


The column on the left explains the process:

  •  Who can apply to the program? (Galician social protection program for public health) -> foreigners who are residing in a stable manner in Galicia without sufficient economic means.
  • Pre-requisites for application to the program:
    • You must have no rights to healthcare provision from a healthcare insurance provider, no rights to join a healthcare scheme and no right to healthcare provision covered by your country of origin.
    • You must have resided in Galicia and been registered on the empadronamiento (see our section on laws and taxes for details of this) for at least 183 days.
    • Your annual income must be below the limits defined in IPREM for acceptance to public assistance programs.
  • Where to apply? -> in the health centre of the concello where you are registered on the empadronamiento.
Access to public healthcare for EU citizens

Healthcare access isn’t, however, a problem for everyone arriving from elsewhere in the EU. If you have paid regularly into your EU country’s social security system during the last 5 years you should be entitled to healthcare in Spain paid for by the country whose system you have paid into.

For this entitlement you need to apply for an S1 form (a standard EU-wide form). If you are below pensionable age then your S1 is likely to be valid for a certain period only, but if you are of pensionable age then you will normally be eligible for an S1 that provides you with full access to the Spanish healthcare system for the rest of your life paid for by your home country plus eligibility for an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card, allowing you emergency access to any EU healthcare system) issued by your home country.

If coming from the UK you should contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team in Newcastle to find out about S1 form eligibility. Contact details are given on the NHS website.

Healthcare standards in Galicia

Once you are able to access Galician state healthcare (SERGAS) you will find its hospitals scrupulously clean, generally well equipped with up to date machinery, and staffed, on the whole, by committed and competent medical staff.

The only real negatives are that it is down to luck whether you can find medical staff who speak any English, that waiting times can be long (although this seems to be true of any public health service in Europe), and (a problem for some people) that the system tends more to the prescriptive that the consultative.
[For British emigrants] The UK government provides the following guidance for UK citizens moving to Spain, and this website provides more general information on accessing healthcare in Spain (but note that laws differ between the different autonomous communities).

Private healthcare

If, for whatever reason, you are unable to access public healthcare in Galicia you will find that private healthcare is very good value for money compared to most north European countries and is widely available near the major cities.