Third country nationals and EU citizens vaccinated against COVID-19 outside the EU can now have easier access to the European Union. The EU has recently opened its COVID Digital Certificate to non-EU countries, which means that these countries may apply to the European Commission for an "equivalence decision" that would make certificates issued by them directly acceptable under the same conditions as the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EU DCC).
Once a country connects to the system, their certificates become automatically valid in the EU. The validation of certificates is foreseen for third country travellers having been inoculated with one of the vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), but Member States may also decide to accept further vaccines, such as the ones on the WHO Emergency Use Listing.
The EU has already adopted “equivalence decisions” with 22 non-EU countries and territories, and the number of applicant states is constantly growing. The Commission is working with dozens of third-states to make sure the certificates they issue are “interoperable” with the EU´s system. This means they should comply with the necessary technical standards, as well as security and data protection principles.
Over 650 million EU Digital COVID certificates have been issued since the regulation came into force three months ago (on 1 July 2021). The fact that more and more countries are embracing this EU-based system is proof of its success in facilitating travel in the post-COVID era.
The EU DCC is a digital document designed to foster free movement inside the EU by giving proof of the Covid-19 vaccination, test or recovery status of a person. In its external dimension, the EUDCC also allows for safer and faster access to the European Union.
With the development of the external dimension of the EU DCC through the recognition process of Digital COVID Certificates issued by third countries, third country nationals can enjoy the same travel conditions as the holders of the EUDCC.
Reminder: the EU DCC does not replace travel documents, such as passports and does not change entry conditions into the EU.
Fully vaccinated persons with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine 14 days after having received the last dose of an EU-authorised vaccine. This should also cover recovered persons having received a single dose of a 2-dose vaccine.
The equivalence has the advantage that it is legally binding for Member States, covering the entire EU+ area (which includes all Schengen Member States and the four Schengen Associated States -Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland-). In total, 30 countries within which vaccinated third country nationals who have been granted an EU COVID Digital Certificate would be able to travel freely.
Once a traveller has entered into the EU+ area, the certificate can also be used for getting access to cultural events, sites or other activities where the possession of the digital pass is mandatory.