What is the EU Digital COVID Certificate? (digital green certificate)
The European Commission is creating EU Digital Covid Certificates (Digital Green Certificates) to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital Green Certificates or EU COVID-19 Certificates or EU Digital Covid Certificates will be valid in all EU Member States. Digital Green Certificates will be a digital proof that a person
- has been vaccinated against COVID-19, or
- received a negative test result, or
- has recovered from COVID-19.
Key features of the certificate
- Digital and/or paper format
- with QR code
- free of charge
- in national language and English
- safe and secure
- valid in all EU countries
EU Digital Covid Certificates (Digital Green Certificates) will be available, free of charge, in digital or paper format. It will include a QR code to ensure security and authenticity of the certificate. The Commission will build a gateway to ensure all certificates can be verified across the EU, and support Member States in the technical implementation of certificates. Member States remain responsible to decide which public health restrictions can be waived for travellers but will have to apply such waivers in the same way to travellers holding Digital Green Certificates. The Commission is working with the World Health Organization to ensure that certificates issued in the EU can be recognised elsewhere in the world as well. The Commission is also in contact with ICAO, the international organisation representing air travel. EU ambassadors agreed a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposal for a Digital Green Certificate. This certificate will facilitate safe and free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19.
27 JanuaryGuidelines laying out interoperability requirements of digital vaccination certificates were adopted, building on discussion held between the Commission and Member States in the eHealth Network since November 2020.
17 MarchThe Commission proposed a legislative text establishing a common framework for an EU certificate.
14 AprilThe Council adopted its mandate to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposal.
7 MayThe Commission started the pilot test of the EU interoperability infrastructure (EU Gateway) that will facilitate the authentication of the EU Certificates.
20 MayThe European Parliament and the Council agreed on the EU Digital COVID Certificate.
1 JuneEU Gateway (interconnection of national systems) goes live.
1 – 30 JuneWarm-up phase: Member States can launch the certificate on a voluntary basis provided they are ready to issue and verify certificates, and have the necessary legal base in place.
mid-JuneRevised Council Recommendation on travel within the EU.
1 JulyThe EU Digital COVID Certificate enters into application throughout the EU.
- 1 July – 12 AugustPhase-in period: if a Member State is not yet ready to issue the new certificate to its citizens, other formats can still be used and should be accepted in other Member States.
What countries are issueing EU Digital COVID certificates today?
|Technically ready to connect to the EUDCC gateway||Effectively connected, issuing and/or verifying at least one EUDCC (vaccination, recovery, negative test)|
|Finland||In test phase||No|
|Hungary||In test phase||No|
|Malta||In test phase||No|
Information for travellers from third countries to the EU
Lifting of travel restrictions
The list of countries for which member states should gradually lift the travel restrictions is reviewed and, where appropriate, updated every two weeks. It was last updated on 3 June 2021 and includes nine countries:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
Travel restrictions should also be gradually lifted for the two special administrative regions of China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity:
- Hong Kong
Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered as EU residents for the purpose of the recommendation.
The criteria for determining the non-EU countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted cover, in particular, the epidemiological situation and containment measures, including physical distancing, and economic and social considerations. They are applied cumulatively.
The following criteria relating to the epidemiological situation are considered when deciding whether a non-EU country should be listed:
- not more than 75 new COVID-19 cases per 100 000 inhabitants over the last 14 days
- a stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days
- more than 300 tests per 100 000 inhabitants conducted over the previous seven days, if the data is available to the ECDC
- not more than 4% positive tests among all COVID-19 tests carried out in the previous seven days, if the data is available to the ECDC
- the nature of the virus present in a country, in particular whether variants of interest or concern have been detected
- overall response to COVID-19, taking into account available information, including on aspects such as surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting, as well as the reliability of the information and, if needed, the total average score for International Health Regulations (IHR)
The progress in having the population vaccinated against the virus should also be taken into account. Reciprocity should also be taken into account regularly and on a case-by-case basis.
May 20, 2021: EU Digital COVID Certificate: European Parliament and Council reach agreement on Commission proposal
The European Parliament and the Council on the Regulation governing the EU Digital COVID Certificate reached a provisional political agreement today.
All EU citizens have a fundamental right to free movement in the EU. The EU Digital COVID Certificate will make it easier for Europeans to travel – whether to see their families and loved ones or to get some well-deserved rest.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate is free of charge, secure and accessible to all. It will be available in a digital and paper-based format, depending on the choice of the recipients. It will cover vaccination, test and recovery.
Work still remains. At EU level, the system will be ready in the next few days. It is now crucial that all EU countries press ahead with the roll-out of their national systems to ensure that the certificate can be up and running as soon as possible.
How will the digital green certificates work?
How will it work?
1) All EU citizens who
- have been vaccinated
- have tested negative
- recovered from Covid-19
will be able to prove it with a digital certificate, issued by their national authorities.
2) The certificate will consist of
- QR code displayed on a device or printed
- digital signature, verified via EU Gateway
3) When the certificate is checked, the QR code will be scanned and the signature verified.
4) The certificate will be
- free of charge
- valid in all EU and Schengen zone countries
- available in a national language and English
5) It will ensure
- security of our data
- safer holidays
10 questions and answers on the EU COVID-19 certificate
- Why do we need such a certificate?
To restore freedom of movement within the European Union, EU governments asked the European Commission to draft a proposal that would allow travel with a reduced risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. A uniform certificate should become commonly accepted as proof in all EU member states and replace diverging national measures currently imposed on cross-border travellers.
- Will this certificate be obligatory to travel?
No. No one will be obliged to use the EU certificate.
- What will the certificate be called?
The European Commission proposed calling it the “Digital Green Certificate”. The European Parliament proposes to call it simply an “EU COVID-19 certificate”.
- Is the certificate a “vaccine passport”?
No. The EU COVID-19 certificate would not be a travel document nor a precondition for travel. It aims to make it easier for people to cross European internal borders without facing additional travel restrictions (such as quarantine) if a person has been vaccinated, has a recent negative test or if they recently recovered from COVID-19.
- Will I face discrimination if I am not vaccinated?
No. The EU COVID-19 certificate would attest to a person’s vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test result or proof that a person recently recovered from COVID-19.
- How much do I have to pay for the certificate?
Nothing. The certificate would be free of charge. MEPs want COVID-19 testing to also be free and easily accessible in all member states.
- Which vaccines will be recognised?
The EU COVID-19 certificate would store proof of any vaccine that has been approved by the European Medicines Agency. The European Parliament says member states should also accept entry based on certificates of any other vaccines that have been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
- How long will this certificate exist?
The European Parliament supports use of the certificates for 12 months. The EP says that any proposal to extend their use beyond 12 months would be based on a new legislative proposal from the Commission and after a thorough assessment of the impact on free movement, fundamental rights and non-discrimination as well as the evolution of the epidemiological situation.
- What if I don’t have a smartphone?
The certificate would be available in digital and paper format.
- Where would my data be stored?
There will be no central EU database containing medical data. Everyone’s rights over their data would be protected in line with the EU’s strict General Data Protection Rules. The EP is asking to make it possible to verify data offline. The issuer (country A) should not be informed when a certificate holder presents a certificate for verification (country B). A separate certificate should be issued for each vaccination, test or recovery and no history of previous certificates should be stored on the certificate itself.
What countries in Europe will use the digital green certificates?
Digital Green Certificates will be accepted in all EU Member States. When travelling, every EU citizen or third-country national legally staying or residing in the EU, who holds a Digital Green Certificate, should be exempted from free movement restrictions in the same way as citizens from the visited Member State.
If a Member State continues to require holders of a Digital Green Certificate to quarantine or test, it must notify the Commission and all other Member States and justify this decision.
European Union member states are the following countries:
- Republic of Cyprus
- Czech Republic
The Digital Green Certificate Regulation would be incorporated into the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, allowing EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) to apply the EU system of Digital Green Certificates.
As regards Switzerland, the Commission will be able to decide to accept Swiss certificates issued in accordance with the Digital Green Certificate draft Regulation, based on reciprocity. Switzerland is not an EU or EEA member but is part of the single market.
Digital Green Certificates could also be issued to nationals or residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican/Holy See, in particular where they are vaccinated by a Member State.
Digital Green Certificates (EU COVID-19 Certificates) at a glance
On 17 March 2021, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a regulation on a ‘digital green certificate’ allowing for safe and free movement of EU citizens during the pandemic, and an accompanying proposal covering third-country nationals legally staying or residing in the EU. The certificate would provide proof that the person has been vaccinated, give results of Covid-19 tests and/or information on the acquisition of antibodies. The aim is to help restore free movement of people in the EU. On 25 March 2021, the European Parliament decided to accelerate work on the Commission proposals, using the urgent procedure.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, EU Member States have adopted various measures to contain the spread of the virus, some of which have had a significant impact on EU citizens‘ right to move and reside freely within the EU, such as restrictions on entry, or requirements to undergo quarantine/self–isolation or a Covid-19 test. These restrictions have also had a dramatic impact on tourism and transport. So far, the EU has sought to coordinate Member States’ actions in the area of free-movement with non–binding recommendations.
As more people get vaccinated, a number of Member States (such as Sweden, Denmark and Poland) are reported to have launched initiatives to issue vaccine certificates (sometimes also called vaccination passes or passports), either in digital or paper format. Member States see various uses for these certificates. For example, Sweden plans to use them for travel purposes or to enable people to attend cultural and sporting events. Some Member States (e.g. Estonia) have already eased restrictions to free movement to people who present proof of vaccination. A digital green certificate would thus standardise and digitise such proofs.
Although at the EU level, there is no agreement on the exact purposes of these certificates (except for medical purposes), the need for a standardised EU system allowing collating information on vaccination and Covid tests in a single document or a mobile app is broadly acknowledged. This is particularly important in cross-border contexts. In particular, countries with major tourism sectors are advocating the adoption of an EU-level certificate. For example, on 12 January 2021, the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to urge the EU to create a vaccination certificate.
Establishing such certificates and linking them with freedom of movement raises a series of important concerns. On 5 February 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against introducing ‘requirements of proof of Covid-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition for departure or entry‘, given that it is still unknown how efficient vaccination is in reducing transmission to others. In addition, given that vaccines are currently not available to all, preferential vaccination of travellers could result in shortage of supplies of vaccines for priority populations. The WHO also recommended not to exempt the vaccinated from other travel risk-reduction measures. On 17 February 2021, the Ada Lovelace Institute, a think-tank, made a similar point, but advised to continue preparing such certificates while accumulating more evidence about the efficacy of vaccines. At the same time, the think-tank drew attention to a number of risks, e.g. that some groups in society might become disadvantaged.
© European Union, 2021
Digital Green Certificates in the EU
How will citizens get the certificate?
National authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by hospitals, test centres, health authorities.
The digital version can be stored on a mobile device. Citizens can also request a paper version. Both will have a QR code that contains essential information, as well as a digital seal to make sure the certificate is authentic.
How will it help free movement?
The Digital Green Certificate will be accepted in all EU Member States. It will help to ensure that restrictions currently in place can be lifted in a coordinated manner.
When travelling, every EU citizen or third-country national legally staying or residing in the EU, who holds a Digital Green Certificate, should be exempted from free movement restrictions in the same way as citizens from the visited Member State.
If a Member State continues to require holders of a Digital Green Certificate to quarantine or test, it must notify the Commission and all other Member States and justify this decision.
Will citizens who are not yet vaccinated be able to travel to another EU country?
Yes. The Digital Green Certificate should facilitate free movement inside the EU. It will not be a pre-condition to free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU. The Digital Green Certificate can also prove the results of testing, which is often required under applicable public health restrictions.
The certificate is an opportunity for Member States to adjust the existing restrictions on public health grounds. We would expect them to take this proof of people’s COVID-19 status into account to facilitate travel.
Does it matter which vaccine citizens received?
Vaccination certificates will be issued to a vaccinated person for any COVID-19 vaccine.
When it comes to waiving free movement restrictions, Member States will have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines which received EU marketing authorisation.
Member States may decide to extend this also to EU travellers that received another vaccine.
What data does the certificate include?
The Digital Green Certificate contains necessary key information such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/ test/recovery and a unique identifier.
The certificates will only include a limited set of information that is necessary. This cannot be retained by visited countries. For verification purposes, only the validity and authenticity of the certificate is checked by verifying who issued and signed it. All health data remains with the Member State that issued a Digital Green Certificate.
Digital Green Certificates: Questions and Answers
The “Digital Green Certificates” will facilitate safe and free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic within the EU. A Digital Green Certificate will be a proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from COVID-19 that can be used across all EU Member States. It can also be introduced in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway as well as Switzerland. The Digital Green Certificate will also be open to initiatives being developed globally.
What are the main elements of the proposal?
- The Digital Green Certificate system covers three different types of COVID-19 certificates: a vaccination certificate, a test certificate, and a certificate of recovery.
- They can be issued and used in all EU Member States to facilitate free movement. All EU citizens and their family members as well as non-EU nationals staying or residing in the Member States and who have the right to travel to other Member States, would be eligible to receive them free of charge.
- The certificates should only include a minimum set of information necessary to confirm and verify the holder’s vaccination, testing or recovery status.
- Being vaccinated will not be a pre-condition to travel. All EU citizens have a fundamental right to free movement in the EU and this applies regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. The same principle applies to the rights of non-EU nationals staying or residing in the EU Member States and who have the right to travel to other Member States. The Digital Green Certificate will make it easier to exercise that right, also through testing and recovery certificates.
How will it help to facilitate safe free movement?
The Digital Green Certificate can serve as proof of vaccination, testing and recovery in order to waive restrictions to free movement put in place in a Member State on public health grounds, such as testing or quarantine requirements.
If a Member State accepts proof of vaccination to waive restrictions to free movement, it will have to accept proof of vaccination issued by another Member State in relation to vaccines which have received EU market authorisation.
Member States will have the option to extend this to travellers who receive other vaccines.
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.
If a Member State continues to require holders of a digital green certificate to quarantine or test, it must notify the Commission and all other Member States and provide reasons for such measures.
How do you ensure that non-vaccinated people are not discriminated when exercising their free movement right?
To ensure that the right to free movement in the EU is respected and that there is no discrimination against individuals who are not vaccinated, the Commission proposes to create not only an interoperable vaccination certificate, but also COVID-19 test certificates and certificates for persons who have recovered from COVID-19. In this way, as many persons as possible should be able to benefit from a Digital Green Certificate when travelling.
The proposal is clear that the Digital Green Certificate is to facilitate free movement inside the EU. It will not be a pre-condition to free movement. Persons who are not vaccinated must be able to continue to exercise their free movement rights, where necessary subject to limitations such as testing or quarantine/self-isolation.
The same applies to the rights of non-EU nationals staying or residing in the Member States and who have the right to travel to other Member States.
Does the introduction of the Digital Green Certificate mean Member States will need to reintroduce controls at internal borders to check certificates?
Not at all. The Digital Green Certificate aims to facilitate free movement within the EU and the easing of the current restrictions, not to restrict the rights to free movement and the right to travel.
The verification of the certificates cannot as such justify the temporary reintroduction of border controls at internal borders, and such controls are not necessary for Member States to implement the Digital Green Certificate.
As the experience of the first months of the pandemic demonstrated, the uncoordinated and hasty reintroduction of internal border controls does not stop the virus, but instead causes societal and economic disruption, which we have a responsibility to avoid to the greatest extent possible. Such controls must remain a measure of last resort, in line with EU law.
- Digital Green Certificate – details
Which information will the Digital Green Certificate include?
The Digital Green Certificate will contain necessary key information such as name, date of birth, the issuing Member State and a unique identifier of the certificate. In addition:
- For a vaccination certificate: vaccine product and manufacturer, number of doses, date of vaccination;
- For a test certificate: type of test, date and time of test, test centre and result;
- For a recovery certificate: date of positive test result, issuer of certificate, date of issuance, validity date.
How will the format of the Digital Green Certificate look like?
The certificates will be issued in digital format, so they can be shown on a smartphone, or on paper, depending on the preference of its holder. The certificates will contain an interoperable, machine-readable QR code containing necessary key data as well as a digital signature. The QR code is used to securely verify the authenticity, integrity and validity of the certificate. To improve cross-border acceptance, the information on the certificate should be written in the language(s) of the issuing Member State and English.
How does the Digital Green Certificate work across the EU?
The Digital Green Certificate contains a QR code with a digital signature to protect it against falsification. When the certificate is checked, the QR code is scanned and the signature verified.
Each issuing body (e.g. a hospital, a test centre, a health authority) has its own digital signature key. All of these are stored in a secure database in each country.
The European Commission will build a gateway. Through this gateway, all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU. The personal data of the certificate holder does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature.
The European Commission will also provide open source reference implementations to support Member States to develop software that authorities can use to scan and check the QR codes.
Which vaccines will be accepted?
Member States should issue vaccination certificates regardless of the type of COVID-19 vaccine.
Where Member States accept proof of vaccination to waive certain public health restrictions such as testing or quarantine, they would be required to accept, under the same conditions, vaccination certificates issued under the Digital Green Certificate system. However, this obligation would be limited to vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation. Member States have the option to accept vaccination certificates issued in relation to other vaccines.
Which COVID-19 tests will be accepted?
To ensure the reliability of the test result, only the results of so-called NAAT tests (including RT-PCR tests) and rapid antigen tests, featured in the list established on the basis of Council Recommendation 2021/C 24/01, should be eligible for a test certificate issued on the basis of the proposed Regulation.
Why will self-tests not be included?
Self-tests are not performed in controlled conditions and, for the time being, are considered to be less reliable. Certificates should be issued by health authorities, which cannot however be in control for tests that are performed for example at home, and cannot therefore issue reliable certificates for them.
Will there be a minimum validity of the certificates?
The period of relevance of certificates depends on scientific evidence and will be determined by the verifiers following their national rules. As new scientific evidence is emerging, the periods for which certificates are relevant for waiver of applicable public health requirements could be adjusted.
The proposed regulation ensures that certificates issued by other Member States are accepted following the same rules as the ones applied to nationally issued certificates. The regulation also introduces some basic principles, for example, setting the maximum validity period of the certificate of recovery at 180 days.
These principles could be adjusted by the Commission through delegated acts to align with new scientific evidence once it is available.
What will happen for those people who have already been vaccinated?
People who have been vaccinated before the Digital Green Certificate is put in place should also have the possibility to obtain the necessary vaccination certificate. If they received a vaccination certificate that did not meet the interoperable standards required under the Regulation, they may request a new one.
At the same time, Member States may continue to issue proofs of vaccination in other formats for other purposes, in particular for medical purposes.
For how long will the Digital Green Certificate be in place?
The certificates are linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Digital Green Certificate system will be suspended once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the international public health emergency caused by COVID-19. Similarly, if the WHO declares a new international public health emergency caused by COVID-19, a variant of it, or a similar infectious disease, the system could be reactivated.
What will be the cost of the Digital Green Certificates?
The certificates will be free of charge.
Member States have to bear the cost for setting up the infrastructure at national level. The Commission will provide funding to support Member States in setting up the necessary infrastructure, if needed.
The Commission will pay for setting up the gateway at EU level, and will support Member State to develop software to be used by verifying persons that scan the QR code.
- Interoperability – inside and outside the EU
How is interoperability of the Digital Green Certificates ensured?
Interoperability is achieved by making sure that the different types of digital green certificates (vaccination status; test results; recovery status) are standardised according to commonly agreed policies, rules and specifications. This means in practice that any certificate issued in one Member State can be verified in another Member State. Member States will retain flexibility in how they design their certificates so long as they meet these common standards.
Member States, with support by the Commission, agreed on a trust framework outline to ensure timely implementation of the Digital Green Certificates, their interoperability and full compliance with personal data protection. This is based on guidelines on basic interoperability elements that were adopted on 27 January and updated on 12 March.
In practical terms, the Commission will set up a gateway through which certificate signatures can be exchanged among national directories, so they can be verified across the EU. The Commission will also support Member States to develop software that authorities can use to scan and check the QR codes.
Will the Digital Green Certificate be compatible with other systems developed at international level?
The Commission is working to make sure that the certificates are compatible with systems in third countries outside the EU. The proposal is open to global initiatives and takes into account ongoing efforts of specialised agencies of the United Nations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to establish specifications and guidance for using digital technologies for documenting vaccination status. Third countries should be encouraged to recognise the Digital Green Certificate when lifting restrictions on non-essential travel. The EU’s Digital Green Certificates could serve as an example for other certificates currently being developed around the world.
The Regulation would be incorporated into the EEA Agreement, allowing EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) to apply the EU system of Digital Green Certificates. As regards Switzerland, the Commission will be able to decide to accept Swiss certificates issued in accordance with the Digital Green Certificate draft Regulation, based on reciprocity.
Today’s proposal would allow the Commission to issue a decision recognising certificates issued by third countries to EU citizens and their family members, where such certificates meet quality standards and are interoperable with the EU trust framework.
- Personal data
How will personal data be processed?
Given that the personal data contained in the certificates includes sensitive medical data, a very high level of data protection will be ensured.
The certificates will only include a limited set of information that is necessary. This cannot be retained by visited countries. For verification purposes, only the validity and authenticity of the certificate is checked, by verifying who issued and signed it. All health data remains with the Member State that issued a Digital Green Certificate.
The Digital Green Certificate system will not require the setting up and maintenance of a database of health certificates at EU level.
- Non-EU nationals
Will the Digital Green Certificate include non-EU nationals in the EU?
Yes. The Digital Green Certificate should be issued to family members of EU citizens, regardless of their nationality. The Commission also adopted a complementary proposal to ensure that the Digital Green Certificate is also issued to non-EU nationals who reside in Member States or Schengen Associated States and to visitors who have the right to travel to other Member States. 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 Digital Green Certificate could also be issued to nationals or residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican/Holy See, in particular where they are vaccinated by a Member State.
Could today’s proposals also facilitate travelling to the EU from third countries?
At the moment, non-essential travel to the EU is restricted from third countries, except for a limited number of countries. A non-EU national who may travel to the EU can obtain a Digital Green Certificate. The non-EU national could request a Digital Green Certificate from a Member State he/she is travelling to, by providing all necessary information, including reliable proof of vaccination. The Member State would then have to assess if reliable proof has been provided and decide whether to issue a Digital Green Certificate.
In the medium-term, where the Commission is satisfied that a third country issues certificates in compliance with international standards and systems which are interoperable with the EU system, the Commission can issue an “adequacy decision” through an implementing act based on the regulation proposed today. Then, such third country certificates would be accepted under the same conditions as Digital Green Certificates.
In both cases, the rules for acceptance of proof of vaccination would be the same as for EU nationals: vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation have to be accepted, but Member States can decide to accept other vaccines in addition.