The European Union has introduced an electronic certificate to allow travel around the bloc of countries. If you live in the EU, you can access your Digital COVID Certificate and use it to avoid quarantine and testing requirements when arriving in any other member state.
The Digital COVID Certificate, or DCC, went live ahead of schedule — learn more in this link.
The DCC has previously been referred to as a “vaccination passport” or “COVID green pass”, although it is neither a passport nor is it exclusively for people who have been vaccinated.
You can get the electronic certificate if you meet any of 3 criteria. If you fulfil one or more of these requirements, you will be considered “safe” to travel around the EU.
The first way to be cleared for travel without restrictions is to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
If you want to get an EU Digital COVID Certificate, you will need to get one of the 4 vaccines approved by the European Union and recognised by all 27 member states. These are:
- Pfizer (BioNTech)
- AstraZeneca (Oxford)
- Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
All of these vaccinations require you to have 2 doses, except for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (1 dose only).
The final dose (or the only dose in the case of the J&J jab) must be taken at least 14 days before traveling. This is because they are believed to take 2 weeks to become effective and provide protection against coronavirus.
Anyone who was fully vaccinated 14 days ago will be able to enter any other EU country with the DCC.
However, vaccination is not the only route you can take to travel safely in the COVID-19 era.
The EU’s DCC is not exclusively for vaccinated travellers. You can also get a digital certificate that approves you as safe to travel if you test negative for coronavirus shortly before arriving at your destination.
Before you set off, you can arrange to take a COVID-19 test. There are currently 2 types of tests that are accepted by the DCC:
- PCR tests
- Antigen tests
The rules differ between the 2 different types.
If you are taking a PCR test, it can be done any time within 72 hours before you are scheduled to arrive in another EU country.
In the case of the antigen test, you will have to take it within 48 hours prior to your trip.
Whichever test you take, the result must be negative for COVID-19. Obviously, if you test positive, you should self-isolate at home and will not be allowed to fly.
Proof of Recovery
If you have already had COVID-19 and recovered from the virus, you might not need to get vaccinated or take a test to be allowed to travel with the DCC.
If you previously tested positive for coronavirus via a PCR or antigen test, this data will be used by the Digital COVID Certificate. If a sufficient period of time has passed, you will have recovered from the illness. Moreover, it is believed that you will have immunity for around 6 months.
Based on this, the EU considers individuals in this situation to be safe to travel. The positive test result and the date it was taken will appear on your DCC.
How the EU’s DCC works
Now that the online platform is up and running, all member states of the EU can issue Digital COVID Certificates to their citizens and residents. Each country is working to implement technology to both issue and process these certificates to allow people to travel.
Many countries began using the DCC system before the official launch date and now, all EU member states have completed testing and are effectively connected to the platform.
The 4 member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which form the Schengen Area along with the EU, are also connected. The EU-associated microstates of San Marino and Vatican City have completed testing, with their connection pending.
A number of EU member states are already accepting the DCC for restriction-free entry, while others, such as the Republic of Ireland, plan to start later in July 2021.
Upon arrival at your destination, you simply need to show the QR code associated with your DCC. You can print this out or present it on a mobile device. This will be verified by a border control officer, who will then allow you to enter without having to quarantine or abide by any other additional rules.
The European Commission has worked to help all EU countries to connect to a shared gateway, which is used to verify DCCs.
The traveler’s personal information is not processed by this gateway; rather, the digital signature of the QR code is verified.
The individual’s data is securely protected and is used only to match their vaccination, test, or recovery result to approve them for travel around the EU.
With this system in place, it is possible to enjoy a holiday in another part of Europe this summer.
If the scheme proves to be successful, it may be expanded in the near future to travelers arriving from “safe” third countries with low COVID-19 rates.