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France introduces (another) new Covid health pass system for non-EU visitors

Since the introduction of the health passport in France, visitors who were vaccinated outside the EU have needed to convert their vaccine certificates to a format that is compatible with the French system. This has been a complicated process and now the French government has introduced yet another new system.

Police check health passes at a café in France.
Police check health passes at a café in Bordeaux. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

From emailing to online forms to visiting pharmacies – obtaining the necessary QR code to operate the French health passport has been a complicated process for visitors.

Now the government has introduced another new system – the fourth since the health pass came into use in August and a replacement for the online portal – and this time tourists will have to pay to get their code.

Here’s how it works:

Who?

This applies to anyone who was vaccinated outside of the EU, Schengen zone or the UK.

Anyone who was vaccinated in a non-EU country like the USA needs to get a French QR code before they can use the health passport that is required in order to access venues including bars, cafés, tourist attractions, theatres and long-distance train travel.

People who were vaccinated in the EU and Schengen zone can use their own country’s vaccination codes, thanks to the EU digital health pass.

People vaccinated in England, Scotland and Wales also have codes that are compatible with the French system, thanks to a separate agreement.

French citizens who were vaccinated outside the EU have their own online portal to use.

In order to apply for the French code you must be

  • Over the age of 12
  • Fully vaccinated with either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Those vaccinated with Sinopharm or Sinovac can get a French code if they have had a single top-up dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.

Those vaccinated with Sputnik or any other vaccines not recognised by the WHO need two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna before they are accepted as fully vaccinated in France.

Why?

The health pass is now compulsory to access a wide range of venues and if you cannot prove your status as fully vaccinated you face having to either take a €22 Covid test every three days or avoid all bars, cafés, cinemas, tourist attractions, gyms, leisure centres and long-distance trains.

How?

The new system is a really a throw-back to the very first system, only a little more formalised.

Previously tourists and visitors were told to email or apply online in advance of their trip to get their code, but now codes can only be issued by pharmacies.

This means that tourists will have to wait until they have arrived in the country and then sort out the necessary code, which is available on a walk-in basis from pharmacies.

Not all pharmacies offer this service, visitors will have to go to a participating pharmacy and, as the map below shows, there are not many of these and they are heavily concentrated on cities, especially Paris.

You can find an interactive version of the map HERE to find the closest pharmacy to you.

Once at the pharmacy, you show your original paper vaccination certificate and your passport and the pharmacist will give you a QR code. The code can then be scanned into the French TousAntiCovid app and this creates the health pass.

Find full details on how the health pass works HERE.

Charles de Gaulle airport

If you are coming to France by air and you are flying into Charles de Gaulle airport, there is a pharmacy at the airport that offers this service. 

It’s called Pharmacie Bonassoli, but it does not operate 24/7.

How much?

Previously the swapping service was free, but now pharmacists can charge up to a maximum fee of €36.

Why the change?

The process for tourists and visitors from outside the EU to get the necessary code has never really worked very well, and The Local has received dozens of emails from people who were unable to get the code, or who waited weeks for their application to be processed, leaving them without a pass on their holidays.

Most of the rollout of the health pass has gone very (some might say surprisingly) smoothly, but this areas has definitely been a weak spot.

The most recent system was an online application form, but many people reported that it took weeks to get their code so it was probably understaffed.

By moving the task back to pharmacies the government has at least provided a service that is accessible on a walk-in basis, and hopefully more pharmacies will sign up to the scheme in time.

What if you are still waiting?

If you already applied online for the code and are still waiting, the government says that existing applications will be processed.

However if it has not arrived by the time you get to France, you can also go to the pharmacy to get your code.

Other options

If this system doesn’t work out for you there are a couple of other options. 

The health pass also works with a negative Covid test, so you could take regular tests. Tests are available on a walk-in basis from virtually all pharmacies in France and for tourists cost €22 for an antigen test or €44 for a PCR test. Both types work with the health passport.

We’ve also received anecdotal reports of foreign vaccine certificates, especially the American CDC card, being accepted as proof of vaccination by staff at bars or cafés. However, this is not officially recognised.

French vocab

Pass sanitaire – health passport 

Attestation de vaccination étranger or Certificat de vaccination étranger  – Foreign (ie non-EU) vaccination certificate

Code QR (pronounced coo-aire) – QR code

Conversion de certificats de vaccination étrangers en format européen – Conversion of foreign vaccination certificates into a European format (this is the formal name for this service, so look out for pharmacies offering this)

Bonjour, pouvez-vous tranformer mon certificat de vaccination étranger en un QR code français pour le pass sanitaire ? – Hello, can you swap my foreign vaccination certificate for a French QR code for the health pass?

Member comments

  1. Just wondering, I fly back to USA on Jan 2 2022, I know I need a covid test within days, so is there a excepted test that I can get back same day on the 3oth, because I know no one will be working new year’s eve or new Years day, and which site does it, thanks for any information

  2. Hello

    I have always booked the covid tests (depistage) via the doctolib.fr website – it is very simple. I do not know if you need an antigen or pcr test. The former is very quick with immediate results (and code) on the spot. I have also had PCR tests at labs where a morning’s test has always resulted in an emailed result by the evening. I would think the pharmacies will be working on New Year’s Eve but I can understand that you may prefer to have it done before that date! Hope this helps.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Everything you need to know about travel to France from within the EU

After two years of limited travel many people are planning a holiday this year and France is a popular destination - but it's easy to lose track of the latest travel rules. Here's what you need to know if you are coming to France from a country that is within the EU or Schengen zone.

Everything you need to know about travel to France from within the EU

Restrictions

France operates a ‘traffic light’ system that has been in place since summer 2020, assigning countries a colour based on their Covid infection rates.

These days most of the world is green – the lightest level of restriction – including all the countries in the EU and Schengen zone. Find full details on the government website here.

Map: French interior ministry

Vaccinated – if you are fully vaccinated according to the French definition (see below) and travelling from a green zone country all you need to show at the border is proof of vaccination. There is no requirement for extra paperwork such as passenger locator forms or health declarations and no Covid tests needed. Once in France you are not required to quarantine.

Unvaccinated – if you are not fully vaccinated according to the French definition (see below) you will need to show a negative Covid test at the border. The test can be either a PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours or an antigen test taken within the previous 48 hours. Once in France you are not required to quarantine.

Fully vaccinated – in order to qualify as ‘fully vaccinated’ you must be vaccinated with an EMA approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca or Janssen) and must be at least 7 days after your final dose (or 28 days after in the case of Janssen). If you had your vaccine more than nine months ago, you will need a booster shot in order to still be classificed as ‘fully vaccinated’ if you are aged 18 and over.

Anyone vaccinated within the EU/Schengen zone will have the EU digital vaccine pass, but vaccination certificates issued outside the EU are also accepted at the French border. 

Children – The rules on vaccination apply to all children aged 12 and over. Under 12s do not need to supply proof of vaccination at the border. Children aged between 12 and 18 do not need a booster shot, even if their vaccine took place more than nine months ago.

The above rules apply to all EU and Schengen zone countries – if you are travelling from the UK click HERE, click HERE for travel from the USA and HERE for travel from other non-EU countries.

In France

So you’ve made it into France, but what are the rules once you are here?

On May 16th, France ended the mask requirement for public transport, representing one of the last Covid restrictions still in place.

Masks – masks are now only compulsory in health establishments, although they remain recommended on public transport. They are not required in other indoor spaces such as shops, bars, restaurants and tourist sites, although private businesses retain the legal right to make mask-wearing a condition of entry.

Health pass – the health pass was suspended in March and is no longer required to enter venues such as bars, restaurants and tourist sites. It is still required to enter establishements with vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. In this case it is a health pass not a vaccine pass – so unvaccinated people can present a recent negative Covid test.

Hygiene gestures – the government still recommends the practice of hygiene gestures such as hand-washing/gel and social distancing although this is a recommendation and not a rule.

Self-isolation – if you test positive for Covid while in France you are legally required to self isolate – full details HERE.

READ ALSO How tourists and visitors to France can get a Covid test

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