TRAVEL: How does the new EU Covid certificate work and how do I get one?

From Thursday July 1st the EU's much talked-about Covid certificates will come into use. How do you get one and will they really make travel around Europe easier?

TRAVEL: How does the new EU Covid certificate work and how do I get one?
A picture taken on June 16, 2021 in Brussels shows the screen of a mobile phone bearing a EU Digital Covid certificate. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

What is the EU Covid certificate?

According to the EU the digital Covid certificate “will facilitate safe free movement of citizens in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Essentially that means no quarantine measures or need to supply negative Covid tests before or after travel.

The idea is that the document – which can be on paper or stored electronically on smartphones – will carry proof via a QR code that the holder has either:

  • been vaccinated against Covid-19
  • recently recovered from the virus (meaning the holder has antibodies in their system)
  • recently tested negative for Covid 

This proof can be shown to whoever requires it, whether border police or airline, rail officials. EEA countries (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) plus Switzerland will be part of the scheme.

The certificates will be free and come in both English and the national language where they are distributed.

It’s worth noting that the Covid certificates are not compulsory for travel within the EU, but those who travel without it will likely be subject to whatever requirements are in place around testing and quarantine.

When will it come into use?

Some countries across the EU have already been using the certificate although there has been doubts and confusion over whether border police in these countries actually recognise it.

But from Thursday July 1st it will be rolled out across the EU and Schengen area and possibly after that non-EU / Schengen countries like the UK and the US will become part of the scheme to allow for smooth travel between those countries and member states (more on this below).

So it will mean the entry rules are the same for all countries within the EU/ EEA /Schengen area?

No, that would be way too simple. (To check which rules countries have in place for the EU Covid certificate click HERE)

What the pass does is provide a single certificate or code that can be read anywhere within the EU/Schengen zone and tells border police or transport company employees your vaccine status or most recent test result.

However, it is up to individual countries to set their rules of entry and there are some differences throughout the Bloc.

For example, some countries count you as “fully vaccinated” only two weeks after your second dose, others will accept vaccine proof from a first dose.

When it comes to testing only some countries accept self-tests, while there are differences in how recently you need to have taken a test – 72 hours or 48 hours.

So you still need to look up the rules of the country you are travelling to, and check that your test/vaccine status complies.

How can EU residents get the certificate?

Member states are in charge of issuing the certificates so getting hold of one is a slightly different process in each country.

Access to the pass depends on where you were vaccinated, not what passport you hold, so if you live in an EU country and were vaccinated there, you should be able to access the pass using the certificate issued by your country of residence.

Most countries have developed smartphone apps to store the certificates, but the EU has also helped countries develop other software where the vaccine certificates can be stored. 

Whilst the full EU Covid certificates are meant to prove negative tests and recovery in most countries they are so far only set up so far to prove vaccination. As of July 1st only negative test results with QR codes will be accepted for travel.

These vaccination certificates are obtained in different ways depending on the member state, but most are handed out after vaccination or online via an e-health portal.  But beware those certificates given after inoculation might not be suitable for travel.

In some countries like France, people are given a vaccination certificate with a QR code after inoculation. But these certificates need to be converted into an EU Covid certificate, complete with a different QR code, via the online e-health portal. The new QR code can then be scanned and uploaded onto the French Covid app.

It takes only a minute but needs to be done prior to travel.

Here’s more information on how to get the certificate in these countries: France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, NorwayDenmark, Sweden, Austria

How does it actually work?

Let’s let the EU explain: “The EU Digital COVID Certificate contains a QR code with a digital signature to protect it against falsification. When the certificate is checked, the QR code is scanned and the signature verified.

“Each issuing body (e.g. a hospital, a test centre, a health authority) has its own digital signature key. All of these are stored in a secure database in each country.”

The basic information the QR code will contain once it’s fully up and running is as follows.

  • For a vaccination certificate: vaccine type and manufacturer, number of doses received, date of vaccination;
  • For a test certificate: type of test, date and time of test, place and result;
  • For a recovery certificate: date of positive test result, validity period.

How did the EU set this up?

The European Commission built a “gateway” through which all certificate signatures can be verified by border officials across the bloc.

While the EU did not create its own app or software to store the certificates, as many had expected, the European Commission did help member states develop national software and apps “to issue, store and verify certificates and supported them in the necessary tests to on-board the gateway.”

So what will this mean for travel in reality?

The EU’s hope is that the certificates will help smooth travel around the Bloc. France’s briefing document on this is headed ‘this summer, only the virus will not be able to travel freely’.

The EU states: “When travelling, the EU Digital Covid Certificate holder should in principle be exempted from free movement restrictions: Member States should refrain from imposing additional travel restrictions on the holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate, unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health.”

This is easier said than done and since the beginning of the pandemic EU member states have shown they will go their own way when it comes to introducing border restrictions or indeed relaxing them. Finding common ground has been difficult throughout the pandemic.

We just have to look at the current split between Germany and tourist-reliant countries such as Greece and Spain. While Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel wants all EU member states to impose quarantine measures on arrivals from the UK, countries such as Greece and Spain have so far resisted. 

Germany’s concern is caused by the threat of the Delta variant in the UK, which has caused new infection rates to spiral – although hospital and death rates remain low.

The EU acknowledges that the threat of the Delta variant or indeed any other variant that may emerge could scupper the Covid certificate scheme. It accepts that in such a case freedom of movement may come to an abrupt end once again.

“In such a case – for instance as a reaction to new variants of concern – that Member State would have to notify the Commission and all other Member States and justify this decision.

So what about non-EU/ Schengen countries?

There has been talk since the scheme was announced that there would be agreements struck between the US and the EU to allow for similar frictionless travel for arrivals.

The EU recently added the US to its white list for travel, essentially paving the way for the return of tourists. But the list is only a recommendation with countries deciding at a national level what their entry policy is when it comes to borders.

Countries like France have already taken a lead and opened up their borders to travellers from the US and Canada by adding the countries to its own green list.

Italy is also allowing arrivals from the US, Canada and Japan under the terms of its version of the ‘green pass’ scheme.

If the US and the EU reach an agreement to extend the Covid certificate scheme it is still not clear how it would work in practice for travellers from the United States, who mostly don’t have vaccine certificates with QR codes on them.

And the UK?

Things are more complicated here due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant in the UK. As mentioned above there is a split between member states about what to do with the UK, which still requires arrivals from EU countries to quarantine for 10 days and take PCR tests after arriving in the country.

However the latest reports suggest that talks between Brussels and London are progressing in the right direction and that travel between members states and the UK could become possible but only for fully vaccinated travellers.

The idea is that the UK’s NHS app which contains vaccination certificates will be compliant with the EU’s own “gateway” to allow for mutual recognition of inoculations.

A spokesman for the French health ministry said on Thursday that because the UK’s vaccination certificates comply with World Health Organisation format they “will eventually be compatible”.

Member comments

  1. We went to the vaccination centre today and asked for a new certificate. It was printed quickly but you need to take your Données télétransmises à l’Assurance Maladie document with you.

  2. What if you have had your double doses from outside the EU (say USA or UK) but are residents in an EU country. Wonder if they will issue the pass or if it’s a EU thing for EU vaccinated people only?

    1. It all depends for the moment on where you were vaccinated rather than where you live. But things may change..

  3. I am the dependent of an S1 entitled pensioner and the ameli account is under his insurance id with me „ayant le droit„. We have both had both vaccinations but download system only shows the certificate for the insured. I had to phone ameli to find out how to get my own. The help desk don’t seem aware of the issue. Seems a bit of a flaw with the system.

      1. As long as the insured entitled pensioner can produce his/her Vitale card, any French pharmacy can access the vaccination database and produce the needed certificate for the pensioner’s dependent. I can confirm that this works since my wife is dependent on my French social insurance and she now has her certificate which was not available for her via Ameli since there was no separate account registered in her name.

  4. I’m fully vaccinated and live in a state and county in the US in which there is nearly zero cases of covid. There is no reason it should be this complicated for me to travel to Italy. Figure it out bureaucrats already.

  5. How can I travel this July to Italy through France? My husband and I are fully vaccinated more than a month ago, and we can get the NHS app with the certificate. My mum came to stay six months with us. She is from Argentina, but has been the last six months in the US and got her two doses of Pfizer there (plus Covid afterwards, but very mild, thankfully!). She got a paper certificate that has no QR code. Now, she will be coming with us on the Eurotunnel. Will her certificate work? BC she cannot get the NHS certificate nor something else from the US as she is not American but Argentine…. Thanks for any response.

  6. I was fortunate to have my 2 jabs early but now my 6 month COVID Certificate expires on Aug 20.
    When I checked if I therefore needed a third jab (!), I was told not possible. So what happens after the 6 month validity?

    1. My Covid certificate was due to expire but I now find it has a longer “expiry date “- I think it happens automatically

  7. I am in Umbria having arrived from UK on 24 June after a negative Covid test in the UK which I had to have in order to travel. I am required to get a Covid test to be released from quarantine after 5 days here. Our efforts to get the test have got nowhere. We are told by the Umbrian authorities that only an official test which they must arrange is valid. But no test is forthcoming. I am not allowed to organise a test myself. Also the officials tell us that the five day quarantine has no meaning, in other words they are under no obligation to organise the test after 5 days. Not only has the response been it adequate, officials have been rude and unpleasant.

  8. FYI California residents – fortunately, there is already have a system in place that allows you to get a QR code for your vaccination cert ( It’s still a bit buggy – on first submit, it could not find my record but submission of a simple trouble-shooting form quickly resolved that; however, now it only has record of my second shot. They seem to be aware of that because an auto email includes instructions regarding having only partial records – another trouble-shooting form is in process.

  9. I am hoping to drive to Italy from the Uk.Do I need to have a COVID swab test before I travel.Will a digital certificate showing my result be acceptable to the Border Control.

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For members


What to expect from Tuesday’s strike in France

February 7th marks the third day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. From planes and trains to school, ski lifts and power cuts - here's what to expect on Tuesday.

What to expect from Tuesday's strike in France

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ in the ongoing battle against pension reform is scheduled for Tuesday, February 7th, and will be followed by another one on Saturday, February 11th.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

Tuesday’s mobilisation is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

It will come as French lawmakers debate the bill in the Assemblé Nationale.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance.

We will update this story as new information is released.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Who is winning the battle over French pension reform?


The four main unions (CGT Cheminots, Sud Rail, CFDT Cheminots, and UNSA Ferroviaire) representing workers with France’s national rail service, SNCF, have all called for strike action on Tuesday, February 7th.

During the day of action on January 31st, 36.5 percent of railway workers went on strike, compared to 46 percent on January 19th.

In addition to Tuesday’s strike action, two of the above unions, CGT and Sud Rail, have also called on workers to strike on February 8th. However, as of February 2nd, the other two primary unions had not made any calls to take part in Wednesday’s action.

Intercity and TER trains operated by the SNCF will likely see services disrupted on Tuesday with many cancellations. International trains including the Eurostar could also be affected.

City public transport

In the Paris region, the main unions representing RATP (Paris region public transport services) issued a joint statement on February 1st saying they would join calls for mobilisation on February 7th.

Traffic was severely disrupted on the most recent day of strike action, January 31st, on certain RER lines, with some lines like the RER C running an average of 1 train out of 10. As for the Paris Metro system, several lines only ran during peak hours and many stations across the city were closed. Many buses continued running, though with delays to usual operating times.

Other cities including Marseille and Lyon will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

In Lyon, on January 31st, public transport services were strongly impacted by strike action, and one metro line did not run at all throughout the day. 

Air travel

While it is not yet clear what level of disruption to expect in air travel, the leading civil aviation union, USACcgt, has called on “all DGAC (French civil aviation authority) and ENAC (National school of civil aviation) staff to go on strike en masse and take part in demonstrations” on February 7th, according to reporting by Le Parisien.

During the two previous mobilisations, approximately 20 percent of flights operating out of Paris-Orly airport were cancelled, but other airports were not affected. 


Port and dock workers walked on January 31st. It is not yet clear if they will join actions on February 7th, but typically strikes in this sector impact commercial ports rather than ferry ports. 


Tuesday’s strike will take place during the first round of winter holidays – so students in the Zone A (Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon, Poitiers) will already be off school.

You can find out more information about France’s school zones here.

Nevertheless – one of the major unions representing teachers, Snuipp-FSU said in a statement that they hope to see an “amplification” of previous walkouts, as they called on teachers to walk out on February 7th.

Primary school teachers (maternelle and elementary schools) are required to inform students and families at least 48 hours in advance of their intent to strike.

On January 31st, the Ministry of Education reported that about 25.9 percent of teachers walked out, in comparison to the 38.5 percent who walked out on the 19th. Numbers offered by the Snuipp-FSU union were higher – they said that about 50 percent of elementary school teachers walked out, and that 55 percent of secondary school teachers did so as well.

In addition to industrial action by teachers, several student unions, like the “National Student Movement” (MNL), representing high school students have made an effort to mobilise French youth across the nation, with some blocking the entrance to their high schools on strike days. According to the Journal des Femmes, the MNL has called on high schoolers across the country to walk out again on the 7th.

Ski lifts

BFMTV reported on January 31st that a walkout was scheduled for seasonal workers for approximately one hour and thirty minutes on Tuesday, February 7th. This means that in some resorts, ski lifts and stores could be closed. 

READ MORE: What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have also called an ‘unlimited’ strike which began on January 31st. This means further actions could come later in the month as well.

Petrol stations

French refinery workers have threatened to strike for a 72-hour period beginning on February 6th. Union representative, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions could result in a “lower throughput” for petrol and a “stoppage of shipments.”

This could mean that there may be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

The mobilisation on January 31st saw a significant number of refinery workers walk out – between 75 to 100 percent at some refinery and oil depots, according to the union CGT.

Power cuts 

Workers in the energy sector (electricity and gas), primarily represented by the union FNME-CGT, have announced plans to strike from February 6th through 8th. 

The day of action on January 31st had 40.3 percent of employees at EDF (France’s national energy provider) walk out, in comparison to 44.5 percent on January 19th.

Some workers in this sector have taken what they call “Robin Hood” actions to “distribute free electricity” to hospitals, schools and low-income housing areas.

On January 31st, striking workers brought about significant load reductions in some power plants across the country – approximately 3,000 MW according to La Depeche. However, these reductions in power reportedly did not lead to any power cuts on the 31st.


Demonstrations are expected in cities and towns across the country.

January 31st, the most recent day of large scale mobilisation, saw over 1.27 million people take to the streets according to the interior ministry. In Paris, the number of protesters was estimated at 87,000, higher than the 80,000 clocked last time, the ministry told AFP.

In Lyon, the route for the demonstration has already been decided, according to Lyon Capitale. It will begin at 12pm in front of the Manufacture des Tabacs. The procession will move toward the Place Bellecour.

Unions are hoping for a similar turnout on February 7th.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to February 7th only. Unions have also called for more walkouts on February 11th. 

Additionally, the strike by oil refinery workers is expected to run for 72 hours, meaning it will continue into Wednesday, February 8th. There could be more action in later days by oil refinery workers, as they have called for an ‘unlimited strike’.

Other unions have also declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators and truck drivers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.