Note: This article was first published on October 18th, 2021 but had been updated since to include the latest working methods.
With borders soon to open for fully vaccinated people, travel will be a thing once again. However, expect a lot of paperwork, testing and QR codes for the foreseeable future.
Having just returned from Europe, I wanted to share how things work there in terms of covid certificates. This is important because Australians looking to flex their fancy green covid pass in Europe will soon find out that it isn’t a valid document. But, not to fear, this guide will show you how you can obtain a valid EU Covid Pass using your Australian vaccination certificate.
Update: many countries now allow unvaccinated travellers to enter, this means covid passports are slowly becoming a thing of the past! Here’s a list of countries you can travel to unvaccinated.
In this post:
- How does the covid pass work in Europe?
- Update 17 February 2022
- Working Method: Swiss EUDCC- No longer an option
- Working Method: Free Swiss EUDCC for Geneva- No longer an option
- Option One: France — Old method
- Option Two: Switzerland — Old method
- How To Add The Pass To Your Digital Wallet?
- Summing Up
How does the covid pass work in Europe?
In Europe, the EU Covid Pass is a standardised format recognised within Europe, the Schengen area and a few other countries. The pass isn’t just for vaccinated people; it’s also for those who have a recent PCR test result or for people who have recovered from covid within the last 6 months.
Most European countries allow entry with either a negative PCR or a vaccine certificate with a recognised European vaccine or if you have covid antibodies (i.e. you recovered).
Certain countries like France or Italy require the EU certificate to participate in daily life, such as visiting restaurants, bars and other places.
All this is possible thanks to a universal QR code that prevents fraud and is easy to scan with dedicated mobile apps. Hence why you will find that no one is familiar with your Australian certificate.
The Solution? Convert Your Australian Cert To EU
Luckily there are a few ways you can convert your Australian vaccine certificate (or any certificate for that matter) to a European recognised pass.
Update 17 February 2022
As of today, Switzerland has removed the requirement for covid vaccine passports in the entire country, this includes tourists entering from abroad. This also means the end to what was a handy tool for Australian’s and other foreign nationals to obtain a EUDCC pass to get around Europe. While I suspect it won’t be long before covid passes are gone and forgotten, in the meantime we will keep looking for solutions! Currently, the only options appear to be taking your AU certificate into a French or German pharmacy to get a EUDCC. Tips? Leave them in the comments.
Working Method: Swiss EUDCC- No longer an option
Your non-EU vaccination certificate (such as the Australian one) can be converted into a Swiss EUDCC for a nominal 30 CHF (~AU$44) fee. This can all be done online via https://www.covidcertificate-form.admin.ch/foreign once you click the link, follow the steps and read the instructions.
To qualify you need to have either a flight to Switzerland or a local hotel booking (of course refundable bookings are accepted). You will need to upload this information into the portal.
To download the Swiss covid app, you might need to change your phone’s region to Switzerland temporarily in order to download the Swiss “covid certificate” app. This is not a requirement though as you will get a PDF copy of your certificate emailed.
Swiss certificates use the same protocols and standards as the rest of the EU issued green pass known as EUDCC and therefore are accepted throughout the Schengen zone.
Working Method: Free Swiss EUDCC for Geneva- No longer an option
Thanks to the comment from Dylan, we now have a new method that is free!
Geneva is the only Swiss canton to have taken the decision to make it free to transfer certificates from third countries (CHF 30.- in the rest of Switzerland).
Visitors simply need to certify that they will be residing at an address in Geneva during their stay (in a hotel, with friends, etc.). Evidence will be requested (plane/train ticket, accommodation reservation, invoice with an address in Geneva, etc.).
If these conditions are met, those travelling must complete a form via the following link: https://smc02.hug.ch/surveys/?s=WA39AEN9T3CYMK9W
The request must be made 7 days before arrival; the time necessary for the General Directorate for Health to verify the request.
If visitors decide to visit other cantons during their stay, this is not a problem, as long as one of the addresses for their accommodation is in Geneva and the visitors have applied for a certificate. Of course this certificate also works for the rest of Europe/Schengen zone.
You can find more info on the free option here: https://www.geneve.com/en/plan-a-trip/info-covid
Option One: France — Old method
Update: this method is not available anymore, you can however convert your certificate in French pharmacies for a small fee when in France.
France is one of the strictest places when it comes to having a valid pass, and you won’t be able to do much without it. They have an online process where you can apply for your “Passe Sanitaire”. You can apply via this website.
Here are the requirements:
- You are from a country which is not one of the following countries: European Union Member States, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, Switzerland, or United Kingdom (England and Wales only)You are aged 18 or over. Until 30 September 2021, the COVID certificate is not required for minors aged 12 to 17 years, and minors aged under 12 years old are not subject to COVID certificate requirements;
You have been vaccinated with a vaccine which is accepted by the European Medicines Agency:
- 4 weeks if you received a one-dose injection (Johnson&Johnson);
- 7 days after the second injection for two-dose vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca);
- 7 days after the injection if you have recovered from COVID-19 (in this case, only one dose is necessary);
- You are already in France or you intend on going there within the coming days.
You will be asked to create an account, upload your documentation and within 2 weeks or so; you should receive your “Passe Sanitaire”.
While technically this is designed for French tourists, this pass will work anywhere in Europe since the QR code is universal. In terms of providing proof of your flights to France, you can simply submit a dummy booking.
Option Two: Switzerland — Old method
Update: see the working Swiss method above.
The Swiss are masters of efficiency, and they are currently doing the certificates at no cost to all passport holders. This includes those with European passports who might have gotten their vaccine abroad. My friend Andrew from Mainly Miles shared this tip, and it’s probably the fastest process right now. You will also need travel details but you can easily generate a dummy ticket to Switzerland if you don’t plan to actually go there.
Here’s the process:
- Download the COVID Certificate Switzerland app (if you don’t download the app you will need a Swiss phone number and email address).
- Generate a “transfer code” in the app
- Visit: https://tracing-valais.ch/en/certificat
- Complete all the steps, on the website, upload your AU certificate (the PDF version you can download; digital wallet screenshot won’t cut it).
- Enter the transfer code you received in the app and submit!
Andrew from Mainly Miles received his pass within 48h which was much faster compared to the French.
How To Add The Pass To Your Digital Wallet?
If you have an iPhone, it’s convenient to add the pass to your Apple wallet unless you want to keep the Swiss app etc. There’s a website that does this conversion for you and creates a digital version of the QR code, which is readable by any scanner in Europe. The website is called GetCovidPass.eu and while it’s not an official site, they are run by a legitimate company that specialises in creating digital wallet products for a range of high-end customers such as Mastercard etc. It’s just something to keep in mind when submitting your private medical data.
These are just 2 ways of obtaining an EU certificate, if you’re travelling soon but don’t have one: don’t stress! You will need a negative PCR to enter Europe anyway so that will trump your vaccine certificate in most cases. On a separate note, once you have the EU QR code you should be able to upload it to a variety of different EU country based apps (if that’s important to you).
Most countries offer a similar service when you visit a local pharmacy or GP with your AU covid certificate.
Right after I posted this guide, an update came out for an updated version of the Australian covid certificate. This new edition features a QR code that is readable by foreign countries so I assume they followed the same standard as the European QR code. It will be available from Tuesday 19th October via your MyGov account.
Update: It’s been widely reported that the Australian QR code is not in line with EUDCC, this means your Australian travel certificate is somewhat useless abroad.