The European Union is set to make available its COVID-19 passport for all EU citizens and residents, as well as for specific categories of travellers from third countries, by July 1.
The procedures for the launch of the certificate are completed on the side of the EU Commission, while it now remains up to the Member States to implement it within the next weeks.
SchengenVisaInfo.com announced on June 1 that seven EU countries had already started to issue EU COVID-19 passports – Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland. On June 4, Iceland also started to implement the pilot system for the issuance of COVID certificates.
Whereas at the very beginning of this week, Switzerland joined the list and started issuing the first COVID passports to its citizens. The rest of the 20 EU Member States are expected to implement the system in the following weeks.
Back in April 2020, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported that a vaccine would for sure become mandatory for those wishing to travel throughout the Schengen Area once it is approved and available.
However, the Commission first brought forward the proposal for the creation of a document which would enable those vaccinated to travel restriction-free throughout Europe in mid-March this year, in a bid to restore the freedom of travel for vaccinated persons, those who have recovered from the virus, and those who test negative, amid COVID-19.
Since then, the proposal has gone through all of the EU procedures for the approval of regulation, and now, on July 1, all of the Member States are expected to start issuing vaccine passports, at least partially.
Following in this article, find all of the necessary information on the EU COVID-19 travel certificates, also called vaccine passports among travellers.
What Is the Purpose of EU’s COVID-19 Passport?
The European COVID-19 travel certificate has been created by the European Union in a bid to restore the freedom of travel, which has been put at a halt for over a year now, since the pandemic erupted all over the block. Through the certificate, the Commission intends to remove travel restrictions as entry bans, quarantine obligation, and testing.
The EU Commission has encouraged the Member States to remove the entry restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement since mid-March 2020, for those that hold such a document, starting from July 1, though the members have the option to remove those restrictions earlier, as many already have.
“When travelling, every Digital Green Certificate holder will have the same rights as citizens of the visited Member State who have been vaccinated, tested or recovered,” the EU Commission had explained presenting the certificate.
The Member States are not legally obliged to implement the certificate. However, all of them are already in the process of introducing it. They will still be able to impose restrictions on arrivals from the other EU countries, yet, they must inform the Commission and all rest of the Member States and provide reasons why such measures are being taken.
What Is an EU COVID-19 Vaccine Passport/Certificate?
The EU COVID-19 Vaccine Passport/Certificate is a one-piece document that can be issued to a traveller in both a paper and digital format.
Depending on the traveller’s status, there are three types of EU’s COVID-19 passport launched.
- Vaccination passport
- Test certificate
- Recovery certificate
Those holding such a document will be able to travel throughout Europe without the need to quarantine or test for COVID-19 (though the Member States may impose such restrictions on particular countries with a higher COVID-19 rate).
What is a Vaccination Passport?
The EU COVID Vaccination Passport will be issued to all those who have been fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus, with one of the four vaccines approved by the European Medicine Agency, which are:
- Comirnaty (BioNTech, Pfizer)
- Vaxzevria (previously COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, Oxford)
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
The certificate will prove that its holder has been vaccinated while also containing additional information on the vaccine, as when the doses were administered, who is the manufacturer, etc.
The Commission has also permitted the Member States to issue certificates for travellers vaccinated with vaccines other than those approved by the EMA. However, the decision is up to each individual Member State if they want to permit entry for those vaccinated with such vaccines or not.
What is a Recovery Certificate?
Travellers who have recently been infected with COVID-19, and recovered from it, should also be permitted to travel with an EU COVID travel certificate.
“The EU Digital Covid Certificate of recovery confirms that the holder has recovered from a SARS-CoV-2 infection following a positive test. It should be issued no earlier than 11 days after the first positive test,” the Commission explains.
However, the Commission also points out that tests that detect if a person developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 – also known as antibodies tests – cannot be used to obtain a recovery certificate.
What is a Test Certificate?
All travellers who test for COVID-19 with PCR or Rapid Antigen test, and result negative, can obtain an EU COVID certificate.
“A separate certificate will be issued for each test and will not contain any data from previous certificates,” the Commission notes.
The EU has not yet come with a common timeframe within which these tests must be taken, therefore, it is up to the Member States to decide.
Which EU Countries are set to adopt the COVID-19 Vaccination Passport?
As seen in this map, all European Union Member States and Schengen Area countries are set to implement the EU COVID-19 vaccination passport.
However, while some of them have successfully connected to the EU gateway, some others have been left behind.
By June 22, the following countries in the EU and the Schengen Area have effectively connected and are also issuing and/or verifying at least one EUDCC (vaccination, recovery, negative test):
The rest of the EU and Schengen countries – Cyprus, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway – are technically ready to connect to the EUDCC gateway.
Hungary and Malta, are the only two EU countries still in the testing phase.
How will the Vaccine Passport look like?
In spite of a widely spread opinion that the certificates will look like a regular travel passport, in fact, it will be a one-page document, issued in digital format and printable.
Travellers will be able to show them to the border guards, either in paper format or in their smartphones or tablets, up to their choice.
Every certificate will contain a unique machine-readable QR code through which it is possible to securely verify the authenticity, integrity and validity of the certificate, as well as a digital signature. The certificates will be issued in two languages, in English and the official language(s) of the issuing country.
What information will the document contain?
Every certificate will contain the following information on the holder:
- Name & Surname
- Date of Birth
- the Member State issuing the certificate
- QR code
Each certificate will contain the following additional information on the travellers, depending on his/her immunity status:
- For vaccinated travellers: the name of the vaccine and manufacturer, number of doses administered, date(s) of vaccination
- For tested travellers: type of test, date and exact time of test, name of the test centre and the results
- For travellers who have recovered from the virus: date of the positive test result, the name of the issuer of the certificate, date of issuance, validity date
Where can I obtain my EU Vaccine Passport?
Every EU citizen can obtain the certificate in the country where they receive the vaccine. The certificates will be issued by qualified bodies in each EU and Schengen country. These bodies could be hospitals, test centres, health authorities, etc.
As per third-country citizens who may be eligible to apply to obtain the certificate, they should apply for such a document through their destination Member State.
How will I use the EU Vaccination Passport?
Wherever you travel within the EU, you need to carry your certificate with you, either in digital or in paper format. You will need to present it at the border controls that you encounter when travelling.
The certificates will contain their own digital signature key, which will be part of the QR code in order to prevent their falsification.
The verification has been made possible through a gateway build by the EU Commission, which will be connected to the national systems of the Member States.
How long will this document be needed?
The scheme will be fully running starting from July 1, 2021, and until June 31, 2022.
During the first six weeks, which means until mid-August, there will be a phase-in period so the Member States can develop the capacity to issue their own EU Digital COVID certificates if they cannot already do so by July 1.
If needed, the scheme may run for a longer period than one year.
What about those who have already been vaccinated?
All travellers who have been vaccinated before July 1 are still eligible to apply for the certificate.
How much will a Vaccine Passport Cost?
The Member States are obliged to cover the costs of the EU COVID travel certificates, which means they are free of charge for travellers.
Can an EU Citizen travel to Non-EU countries with an EU Travel Certificate?
The EU’s vaccine certificate is open to global initiatives as the ones initiated by the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Commission had previously said it was working to make the certificates compatible with those developed in third countries.
However, for now, it is still unknown whether the other countries will facilitate entry restrictions for those holding EU COVID certificates.
Can third-country nationals residing in the EU obtain the certificate?
Yes, a foreign national legally residing in the EU is able to obtain e certificates, just as EU nationals are.
“Separate proposals to cover citizens and non-EU citizens are necessary for legal reasons; there is no difference in treatment of citizens and eligible non-EU citizens for the purpose of the certificates,” the Commission explains.
The residents of the European microstates of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican are also eligible to obtain the certificates.
Is it possible that the Vaccine Passports can soon be issued to travellers from third countries?
As the Member States reopen the borders for travel from non-EU countries for non-essential purposes, they also intend to issue EU COVID travel certificates to travellers from third countries intending to enter their territory.
The Commission also intends to accept certificates issued in third countries, which are issued under the same conditions as the ones by the EU.
Will I face discrimination if I am not vaccinated?
The EU had taken the necessary measures so that people who are not vaccinated will not be discriminated against when travelling across the EU. All those who are not vaccinated can get tested for COVID-19 and travel freely.