If you’re an expat living and working in a foreign country, you may have heard that some countries are planning to introduce COVID-19 vaccination passports later this year.
How and when will you be able to get your hands on these vaccine passports? How much freedom will they allow you as an expat? Will you need one if you want to travel or move overseas? To help you keep track of the debate, we’ve created this handy FAQ.
This will depend on the country you’re living in and where you received your vaccination.
If you have resident status in a foreign country, you should have received, or will be receiving, your vaccination from that country’s health authorities.
In that case, it will be up to your resident country whether you receive a vaccine passport for COVID-19. Every country has unique laws on travel during the coronavirus pandemic, so you may have to wait a while to see whether you’ll be offered a vaccine passport.
If you returned to your home country for your vaccination, or if you received your vaccination in a different country to the one you are now living in, then your immunisation passport may be offered by that country depending on its vaccine passport policy.
You probably won’t be able to ask for a vaccine passport from a different country to the one you received your immunisation from. This is because each country will have its own records of suppliers, batch numbers and so on.
Which countries have implemented COVID-19 vaccine passports? Will I need a vaccine passport to travel?
This is highly likely and many countries are already talking about introducing a COVID-19 vaccination passport as a requirement for entry.
Vaccination passports already exist for other diseases, so it’s likely COVID-19 will be added to the current list of vaccines required for international travel.
Singapore from 1 May 2021 will become one of the first countries in the world to start accepting visitors who hold a mobile travel pass containing digital certificates for Covid-19 tests and vaccine. Emirates Airline will begin to trial a coronavirus travel passport at Dubai International Airport within days as of April 2021.
Which destinations are open to travelers vaccinated against Covid-19?
The countries which have already started to issue COVID-19 vaccination certificates (1200 GMT on 5 April 2021 with latest available data) included:
Of these, Estonia and Poland are already allowing visitors who can show proof they have been vaccinated, while Hungary is considering opening its borders to visitors later this year.
Many other countries have also opened their borders to certain people who can prove they have been vaccinated. They include:
- the Seychelle
And at least 11 other locations have declared that they will open their borders to foreign visitors with vaccine passports later this year. They are:
Some countries are also requiring visitors to have health insurance for entry.
What is a vaccine passport?
Before allowing travellers to enter, some countries require evidence that they have had certain vaccinations – for example, against yellow fever and polio. A range of vaccine passports, also known as a vaccine certificates or immunisation passports, exist for this very reason.
Vaccine passports are not a new concept. In fact, they have been around since the 1930s. The first vaccine passport was introduced for yellow fever in 1935.
This was followed, in 1944, by vaccine passports for typhus, smallpox and cholera.
A vaccination passport contains information about the traveller and their inoculation, including the date it was administered, the date it is valid until, the manufacturer and batch number and an official stamp from the administering centre.
If a person has a medical reason that prevents them from getting a vaccine, an immunisation passport may still be given with a note from a physician saying why the person is exempt.
What is the Digital Green Certificate?
Residents of EU member states, third-country nationals and those permanently living in the EU may soon be allowed to apply for a Digital Green Certificate.
The certificate has been proposed by the European Commission as a way to enable the safe, free movement of citizens within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a vaccine passport by any other name, and can also store data about test results and previous history of COVID-19 infections.
The proposed certificate will take the form of a QR code that travellers can show at the borders of other EU countries. It will contain all the same information as a vaccine passport, such as supplier and batch number.
Věra Jourová, 17 March 2021
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, European Commission
This depends on the laws on international travel in your home country.
During the pandemic, many countries have altered their rules to restrict or deny entry – even to their own citizens.
Some countries, including the UK, require that all international arrivals – including British citizens – must take a COVID-19 test and quarantine on arrival at their own expense.
For this reason, many nations are advising their citizens to remain abroad until they receive further instructions. The UK government has published guidelines to British citizens who are waiting to return home.
Can people travel to the UK during COVID-19?
The UK is currently discussing introducing its own vaccination passports. However, at the present time there is no type of vaccination passport that can be used to cross the UK border.
People can travel to the UK from the USA and other countries, but it’s recommended they only do this in exceptional circumstances.
If you’re travelling from or through a country on the UK government’s red list, you will not be allowed to enter the UK unless you are a UK or Irish national (in which case you will need to quarantine as above).
People who fail to provide accurate details about the countries they have visited in the 10 days before arriving in the UK could be fined up to £10,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years.
What are the UK quarantine and travel restrictions?
There are currently very tight restrictions on travel and different rules depending on which part of the UK visitors arrive in.
Those arriving in England and Wales must fill in a passenger locator form through the UK government website and must also be able to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last three days.
Travellers must also self-isolate in a hotel for 10 days on arrival and will need to pay for a travel test package to be taken while in quarantine.
If you’re quarantining in England you may be able to take advantage of the Test to Release scheme. This allows you to end your quarantine early if you test negative after arriving.
Those arriving in Scotland must do all of the above, but their self-isolation must take place in a government-approved hotel. Travellers arriving in Northern Ireland must also quarantine for 10 days while also observing the country’s stay-at-home rule. They must not cross the border to Ireland after arriving.
Breaking any of the quarantine rules could result in a fine of £10,000.
This will depend on the laws implemented by each country. It may also be up to the discretion of certain businesses.
Many countries have introduced stay-at-home orders. Currently, these orders impact everyone, including those who have already been vaccinated. However, under some proposed plans, people would be allowed to forego stay-at-home orders if they could provide evidence that they have been vaccinated.
Some countries are even considering whether to ask people to show vaccine certificates in order to enter shops, restaurants, bars and other indoor venues.
As of yet, no country has taken this step, but it may become increasingly common as more people worldwide get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Can my work force me to get vaccinated?
This depends on the laws of the country in which you’re resident.
Generally speaking, no one should be forced to receive a vaccine if they don’t want one. However, this choice may prohibit them from taking part in certain activities, including doing their job, on the grounds that they present a risk to colleagues or customers.
COVID-19 vaccinations are widely considered safe and everyone is being encouraged to get them.
Will I still need international health insurance if I have a vaccine passport?
Absolutely, as they are two different things.
While a COVID-19 passport will allow you to move about more freely, international health insurance covers you and your family for health issues while you’re living as an expat in a foreign country.
It can provide cover for treatment for most diseases, including COVID-19, as well as cancer.