EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Document 02004R0883-20190731

Coordination of social security systems

Coordination of social security systems


Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 — on the coordination of social security systems



  • It lays down common rules to protect social security rights when moving within the EU (as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
  • It recognises that EU countries decide on aspects such as the beneficiaries of their social security systems, levels of benefits and eligibility conditions.
  • This regulation on the coordination of social security systems does not replace national systems by a single European system.



The regulation covers all the traditional branches of social security, namely:

  • sickness
  • maternity and paternity
  • old-age pensions
  • pre-retirement and invalidity pensions
  • survivors’ benefits and death grants
  • unemployment
  • family benefits
  • accidents at work and occupational illness.

Beneficiaries are guaranteed that their benefits will be paid, that they will be covered for healthcare and that they will receive family benefits even if they move to another EU country.


All EU nationals (and their families) who are covered by the social security legislation of an EU country can benefit from these coordination rules. They apply to employees and self-employed people, civil servants, students and pensioners, but also to people who are unemployed, not yet working or no longer working.

The rules also apply to non-EU nationals and their family members who reside legally in the EU.

Basic principles


  • are covered by the legislation of a single country and pay premiums in that country — the organisations managing social security decide the legal jurisdiction to which they belong (principle of single applicable law);
  • have the same rights and obligations as nationals of the country in which they are covered (principle of equal treatment or non-discrimination);
  • are guaranteed that previous periods of insurance, work or residence in other countries will be taken into account in the calculation of their benefits (principle of aggregation of periods);
  • can, if they are entitled to a cash benefit in a country, collect this benefit if they do not live in that country (principle of the exportability of benefits to all EU countries where the beneficiary or family members reside).

European health insurance card (EHIC)

The EHIC (which is free) allows people staying in another EU country than their country of residence, including on holiday, access to medical benefits during their stay on the same terms and at the same cost as people insured in that country. The costs are then paid/reimbursed by the social security system of their country of origin. EHICs are issued by the health insurance services in the country of the insured person.

Instruments of coordination of social security systems

Institutions must respond to all requests within a reasonable time and must communicate any information required by those concerned to assert their rights under the regulation. The regulation lays down rules to ensure that EU countries’ institutions work closely together and mutually assist one another for the benefit of citizens.


The regulation, although adopted in 2004, only became applicable (in accordance with its Article 91) on 1 May 2010. This was the date on which the act laying down the procedure for its implementation (Regulation (EC) No 987/2009) became applicable (see Article 97 of the implementing regulation).


For more information, see:EU social security coordination on the European Commission’s website.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak and introducing measures to cope with the impact of the crisis, the European Commission adopted:

Communication from the Commission — Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during COVID-19 outbreak

Communication from the Commission — Guidelines on EU Emergency Assistance on Cross-Border Cooperation in Healthcare related to the COVID-19 crisis

Communication from the Commission — Towards a phased and coordinated approach for restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls — COVID-19


Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems (OJ L 166, 30.4.2004, pp. 1-123). Text republished in corrigendum (OJ L 200, 7.6.2004, pp. 1-49)


Regulation (EC) No 987/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 September 2009 laying down the procedure for implementing Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems (OJ L 284, 30.10.2009, pp. 1-42).

last update 02.06.2020