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The EU’s Digital Covid Certificate: Can American Travelers Get One? | Frommer's European Commission

The EU’s Digital Covid Certificate: Can American Travelers Get One?

Non-European citizens will soon be able to obtain QR codes to allow travel through Europe without Covid-19 restrictions.

This summer, the 27 nations of the European Union are finally reopening to tourists—including American ones—following lengthy closures of borders due to the pandemic. 

To facilitate ease of movement while keeping citizens safe, member states are issuing EU Digital Covid Certificates (sometimes referred to as "Digital Green Certificates" or "Digital Green Passes") for travelers to use at borders. These digital certificates prove that the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has received negative test results for the virus, or has recovered from it. 

Although the certificates were devised for use by EU citizens, visitors from the U.S., the United Kingdom, and elsewhere may also be permitted to use the system, EU officials have confirmed to CNN.

Ultimately, however, extending digital certificates to non-EU citizens is up to individual member nations, which can set their own entry requirements. A separate digital certificate just for Americans might be introduced eventually—but for now, the version for EU citizens is the one that's available.

By July 1, all 27 countries in the bloc will be issuing their versions of the certificate, according to the European Union. As of this writing, nine nations—Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, and Spain—have gotten the jump on the rest of the continent and are already using the system at airports and other border crossings. 

How It Works

Travelers with valid and verified vaccination records, Covid-19 test results, or proof of Covid-19 recovery get a customized QR code for border officials and airport security workers to scan. 

The certificate containing the code can be downloaded digitally on smartphones or printed in hard-copy form. 

The EU's governing body stipulates that text must appear in the local language of the country that issues the certificate as well as in English, and the service must be free of charge. Security measures must be in place to protect each user's personal health data and to prevent fraud. 

Participation in the EU's digital pass program will be optional for all travelers, but those who have the certificate should be exempt from restrictions such as quarantines and further testing, and the certificate will be accepted for entry by all EU member nations, raising the possibility of smoother multicountry European vacations (remember those?). Travelers without the digital certificate will likely have more hoops to jump through. 

Where to Get It

According to the EU's webpage on the program, "National authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by test centres or health authorities, or directly via an eHealth portal."

That's mostly referring to the process for EU citizens, though. They can sign up through local or national health and travel services—and just a little more than a week after the first seven countries launched the digital certificates on June 1, more than a million people have reportedly applied already. 

But for Euro-curious travelers outside of the EU, details on how to go about applying for a digital Covid certificate are scant at this point—and, in some cases, contradictory.

While Spain's Travel Health portal is relatively straightforward about how to go about uploading your documents to obtain that coveted QR code, Greece will send you in circles. The country's tourism site states that "travellers from abroad may . . . carry a Digital Covid-19 Certificate." But a government website lists a Greek ID as a prerequisite for the pass.

More details about how each country's system will work for Americans and other international visitors will likely emerge, but some countries are bound to deliver instructions more clearly than others.

You can keep track of developments and see which European nations have rolled out their digital Covid certificates at the EU's dedicated webpage. After that, it's up to you to obtain the certificate in advance from the first European country you plan to visit.