Time-limited incoming health insurance for travels and Schengen-Visa

Time-limited incoming health insurance for travels and Schengen-Visa
Patrick Ott
Patrick Ott
Expert for insurance and finance
11. April 2022

Foreigners planning a temporary trip to Germany need to set up comprehensive insurance when making their preparations, particularly if using a Visa.

These kind of health insurances are calculated as a mere risk-coverage and not a substitute for a “real” health insurance under German laws (for better understanding of the legal requirements for health insurance in Germany, read HERE).

Therefore, they are time-limited and legally only compliant for non-EU-citizen who come to Germany based on a Visa. EU-citizen must only use this kind of insurance if their stay is expected to be short-term and the insurance is meant only as a supplement to their own national/state health insurance. 

Warnings about the use of Travel-health insurances for EU-citizens:

All too often in the many years of advising Expats in Germany we have come about cases where EU-citizen used these kind of insurances for several months or even years. Because these travel-health-insurances are only meant for Visa-foreigners coming in to Germany, the use of them comes with two warnings especially for EU-citizens:

  • German health insurances do NOT regard this kind of insurance as a legally compliant substitute for German health insurances. Wrongful use of such insurances can lead to back-charges later levied by the German insurances when needing to apply finally for coverage within the German system. Short-term savings can lead to painful back-payments later or even major hindrances to enter into the German health insurance system at a later point in time entirely.
  • As an EU citizen coming out of your own national’s health insurance system, you have but three months’ time to apply for admittance with a German national/state insurance after taking up legal residence in Germany. After three months you’ll loose this admission right as a self-employed or freelancer (when taking up employment with a gross salary below the legal threshold, you’ll be compulsorily insured with public health insurance, of course). While German private health insurances are a fully legal substitute for the German public health insurances, setting up such an insurance can be far more complicated and, if you need coverage not only for yourself but also for spouses and children, far more expensive on the long run. Therefore you should not give up this privilege to join the German public health insurance system so wantonly by using an non-compliant health insurance beyond that window of opportunity of the first three months. 
  • Sometimes during the period of time being covered with these travel-health-insurances new medical conditions or a pregnancy can occur. When the predetermined contract duration ends, you’ll have no ongoing coverage and it can be complicated or even impossible to find a German health insurance then to take over with full coverage in such cases. Therefore; it is strongly recommended to use these insurances truly for only very limited purposes. When in doubt, rather elect setting up an international Expat insurance with a good coverage because these insurances will not suddenly stop as long as you continue to pay the monthly dues and you can even continue them if you move to different countries after a time in Germany and thus allow you for an ongoing long-term coverage, which is always a good thing.  

Schengen visa health insurance

Health insurance is required for the visa application or for the visa issue (Schengen visa). The so-called Schengen visa is a document issued by the competent authorities to allow people to travel and move freely within the Schengen area.

Special requirements for insurance cover apply for Germany and for all Schengen states. More details can be found in Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas, as revised on 5 April 2010. It is the legal basis for issuing visas in all Schengen states.

Important reasons for taking out private travel-health-insurance for foreigners visiting Germany based on Visa

  • The insurance is required for the visa application or for the visa issue (Schengen visa).
  • There is often no insurance cover from the visitor's home country or existing insurance policies do not cover the costs.
  • Other, especially German health insurances, may not be available for Visa-foreigners initially.
  • Good travel-health-insurance for foreign guests covers the high costs for a medically reasonable return transport of the insured person to a hospital near the place of residence worldwide.

Important criteria to select a fitting travel-health insurance coverage for Germany

  • Does the visitor only need health insurance valid in Germany or should the insurance cover be more extensive and include, for example, accident insurance or liability insurance?
  • Where does the health insurance apply? Does the visitor want to stay exclusively in Germany or would he also like to travel to other European countries?
  • How long is the health insurance valid? Pay attention to the maximum duration of the health insurance and the possibility of an extension or lack thereof.
  • In which periods does the health insurance company bill? Some insurers bill on a daily basis instead of charging a monthly premium. This health insurance would therefore be ideal for visitors who are only staying in Germany for a few days.
  • When does the health insurance have to be booked? Most offers require a booking before the start of the trip to Germany, others can also be booked when the visitor is already in Germany, but usually only for a very limited period of time!
  • Enhance coverage: everyday risks such as liability claims or accidents can also cause immense costs. That is why we recommend that you also take out travel accident and travel liability insurance to supplement your health insurance.

For foreign students: Studying in Germany requires a health insurance policy that is valid in Germany.

  • If you are only coming to Germany on travel, a visit, short-term project at a university, such a travel-health insurance can make a lot of sense, especially if your home health-insurance won’t cover you properly while in Germany. Germany has an excellent health system, but the costs are also quite high and can be crippling to your personal budget when caught in a situation where you require medical attention without solid health insurance coverage.
  • If you take up real studies in Germany and plan on staying longer, such an insurance may not only not be the best kind of coverage for you. It may also lose you your right to be admitted into the public health insurance coverage that is especially offered for students at state-recognized universities in Germany. Please do not forgo this far better and fully comprehensive kind of coverage for just a short-term saving of money.
  • If you are uncertain about what kind of insurance you are a) eligible for and b) is useful for your stay in Germany, ask an independent source for advice, such as the international departments of the German university who often can offer excellent information about this topic for their incoming students. You may also want to add a Third-Party-liability insurance to your coverage for your stay in Germany.

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