The EU digital COVID certificate scheme has expanded and is now open to all member states and 16 non-EU countries including Israel, Morocco and Panama.

The certificate allows participating countries to digitally verify travelers' COVID-19 data to make crossing borders easier. In some countries, like France and Ireland, the certificates are also used to access restaurants, bars and cultural attractions that are only open to those who are vaccinated, recovered or have tested negative for COVID-19.

Here's what you need to know about using the EU digital COVID certificate to get around.

What is the EU digital COVID-19 certificate?

The certificate is an EU-wide approach to facilitate free movement (one of the fundamental rights of EU citizens) across the bloc during the pandemic. It works as a vaccine passport and tracks citizens' COVID-19 status; indicating that the holder has been vaccinated, has tested negative for the virus, or has recovered from infection. Vaccination, testing and recovery certificates are issued by individual countries and automatically stored in the app, or emailed to individuals to be printed out and used as a COVID cert.

Mock-up of EU digital COVID certificate
The EU digital COVID cert comes in digital and paper format ©EU Commission

How does it work?

The digital certificate is stored on a mobile device, and citizens can also request a paper version. Both have a QR code that contains essential information such as the holder's name, date of birth, and relevant information about vaccination or recovery, as well as a digital seal to ensure the certificate is authentic. Once they hold the certificate, individuals should be exempt from COVID-19 restrictions, including quarantine and additional testing "unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health". 

Individuals can also use the EU digital COVID cert to present their COVID-19 status to enter restaurants, bars, museums and other venues where it's required.

Read more: This is how tourists can access France's health pass

A policeman checks the health pass of a customer at a bar in Bordeaux
Individuals signed up to the EU digital COVID cert can use it to access restaurants, bars and other venues where vaccination status is required ©AFP/Getty Images

Is it free?

Yes, the cert is free of charge.

Do I have to sign up to the EU digital COVID-19 cert to travel?

No, the certificate is not required for travel, but is designed to make it easier. If the country you are traveling to requires recovery, testing or vaccination documentation, you can present your approved health certificate without signing up to the program.

Where is it available?

The certificate is available to citizens and residents of all EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden

It's also available to 16 non-EU countries and territories including Albania, Andorra, Switzerland, Faroe Islands, Israel, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Monaco, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Turkey, Ukraine and the Vatican. This means that COVID certificates issued in those places are accepted in the EU under the same conditions as the EU Digital COVID Certificate. Likewise, the EU Digital COVID Certificate is accepted by those 16 countries.

White tavern buildings on the coast in the Little Venice part of Mykonos Town
Greece was an early adopter of the EU digital COVID cert ©Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock

My country is not signed up to the program - how do I present proof of vaccination to travel to Europe?

The EU digital COVID cert is only available to citizens and residents of the countries and territories listed above.

If you are visiting from elsewhere you can present your approved health certificate without signing up to the program. Once the certificate is valid, it's generally accepted to cross borders. Americans traveling to most EU countries need to present their vaccination status and for that, the white Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) card is acceptable.

People traveling from the UK can usually present their status through the NHS app. However, the Telegraph reports that the UK is close to joining the program. "We have applied to link into the EU's Digital Covid Certificate scheme," a Foreign Office spokesperson told the newspaper. "Linking up to the EU's Digital Covid Certificate scheme will enable us to digitally verify each other's COVID certificates to make journeys easier."

What vaccinations are approved?

Countries signed up to the program accept certificates for vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), including the Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. However, some member states are accepting travelers who have received another vaccine, such as those listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use, including Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

Read more: Australia plans to open its borders by Christmas and ease lockdown using vaccine passports

Can children get a certificate?

The EMA has approved the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children between the ages of 12 and 17. Non-vaccinated children can present a negative test result or recovery certificate if that's required from their destination. These certificates can be received by their parents or guardians and stored in the parents/guardians' smartphone app.

This article was originally published on March 18, 2021 and updated on September 28, 2021.

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