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EXPLAINED: What we know so far about Spain's 'Covid passports'

The Local Spain
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EXPLAINED: What we know so far about Spain's 'Covid passports'

Spain and the EU's Covid digital certificate for travel is set to be launched this summer. Here are the requirements to obtain it, how it will work and the benefits it could bring.


What is Spain and the EU’s Covid passport?

The Spanish Government on Friday May 21st presented Spain’s ‘Covid passport’ at Madrid's tourism fair, a type of digital certificate that aims to kickstart the Spanish tourism season this summer. 

Spain’s Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said that the ‘Covid passport’ will be a turning point for the recovery of travel across Spain and the EU.

They’ve been referred to as simply vaccine passports, Covid passports, Digital Green Certificates (not to be confused with the green residency document for EU residents in Spain) and even green passports, even though they're not actually passports.

In a nutshell, it’s a document which will allow tourists who meet certain health criteria relating to Covid-19 to travel more easily throughout the EU, including Spain. 

Up to ten Spanish regions, including the Canary Islands and the Balearics, are already testing this Covid passport in a pilot programme that started last weekend. 

What information will it contain?

The Covid Certificate is digital proof that an EU traveller has either 

  • been vaccinated against Covid-19
  • or received a negative Covid test result
  • or recovered from Covid-19


What else do I need to know about it?

The Covid Certificates will also be available to non-EU members of the border-free Schengen zone – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. 

This however is separate from plans to open up the European Union to vaccinated non-EU visitors.

The certificates will be completely free and come in digital or paper format. They will include a QR code and will appear in the language of the country in which they were issued, as well as in English. 

It will also contain key information such as the person’s name, date of birth, date of issue, relevant vaccine/test/recovery information, and a unique identifier.

What will it look like?

The following two images from the European Commission show a mock paper and digital version of the EU’s vaccine passports.

How will the Covid passport work?

Although it is an EU-wide scheme, every EU member state will still be in charge of developing and implementing their national version of the EU Digital Covid Certificate. National wallet apps could be developed, but are not the only option.

The Digital Green Certificate contains a QR code with a digital signature to protect it against forgery. When the certificate is verified, the QR code is scanned to verify the signature and relevant information. 

The European Commission will create a portal to verify all certificate signatures throughout the EU. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on how the EU’s ‘Covid passports’ will work for travellers?


Who will issue the digital green certificates?

Although it’s an EU-wide scheme, the issuance, stamping and delivery of the certificates will be the responsibility of Spain’s autonomous communities, for those travelling between Spain and another EU country. This applies to both electronic  (QR Wallet, PDF with QR) and paper formats.

"To facilitate the work at national level, the Commission has provided a reference app to support Member States to develop their national solution to scan and check the QR codes, a template software for Member States to issue EU Digital COVID Certificate and a reference wallet app for governments to offer to citizens to store EU Digital Covid Certificate," a spokesperson said.

Each issuing centre (a hospital, test centre or Spanish health authority) will have its own digital signature key. This information will be stored in a secure database in each country.

According to La Moncloa website: “The ministerial department will issue certificates in special cases, and offer the necessary technical coordination and support to the regional authorities. Laboratories will also participate, tasked with facilitating the information so that the certificates can be issued”.

Does it have any benefits?

The aim of this certificate is to facilitate tourism and travel across the EU this summer. As things stand, they will also be available to non-EU citizens who are permanent residents in an EU or Schengen zone country.

The main advantages are that Spanish authorities will allow EU citizens and residents to enter Spain without having to quarantine or present a negative Covid test if they instead show a Covid Certificate or vaccine passport, the country’s General Secretary of Digital Health Alfredo González said.

The full implications and conditions are yet to be clarified by the EU but judging by the prerequisites for the Covid passport, the exemption from presenting a negative PCR test would presumably apply to those who have had Covid or been vaccinated, as the other possible criteria to obtain the Covid Certificate is to present a negative test result.

It’s also worth noting that Spain is currently not automatically requiring quarantine from nationals of other EU countries either, with only a handful of African and South American nations affected by the South African and Brazilian strain on Spain’s quarantine list.



Does it have any drawbacks?

This will be more evident when it comes into force but the scheme has been described as discriminatory by some critics who see it as giving greater freedoms to those who have been vaccinated, among other reasons. 

The European Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová insists however that it “will not be a precondition for free movement and it will not discriminate in any way”.

“The certificate is designed not to be discriminatory, so it not only certifies that a person has been vaccinated, but also accredits other circumstances to promote normality such as having been vaccinated, being in possession of a negative diagnostic test or having recovered from the disease,” Alfredo González added.

There are also voices calling for some form of testing to be still carried out on certificate holders who have been vaccinated or who have recovered over fears that they could still be carriers of Covid-19. 

When will it be available?

The European Union reached an agreement on Thursday, May 20th that the digital Covid certificate would launch on July 1st, a pact in which the member states agree to avoid imposing measures such as quarantines, although they reserve the right to do so in a proportionate manner if required.

The main requirement from Member States during these negotiations has been to maintain sovereignty over their own borders in order to have the right to impose additional quarantines or PCRs on travellers entering their countries.

"This is a process of great complexity that requires full coordination, as we are witnessing at present, between the Ministry of Health and the regional governments", reads the Spanish government website, "including the involvement of the Ministries of Industry, Trade and Tourism, of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, and of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, along with other agents such as airlines".

Is there anything else I should know?

Spain also announced on Friday, May 21st that British travellers would be able to enter the country from May 24th without the need for a negative PCR test or to show a Covid Certificate. 

READ MORE: Spain clarifies: UK visitors will NOT need to show PCR test but will require health form


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Anonymous 2021/04/20 12:10
How will this Vaccine passport be checked as I have travelled many times from Spain and back and I have hardly ever been asked to show my Passport on returning to Spain as there has been no officials on the control gate. You simply walk through !!
Anonymous 2021/04/19 20:10
Is there any information on how foreigners who are legal residents of Spain but who have been vaccinated in their home country outside the EU might obtain a COVID passport? Particularly Americans living in Spain, as the USA has indicated it will not participate in a COVID passport scheme.
  • sue_607ddce68156e 2021/04/19 21:46
    Many British citizens who are legally resident in Spain but have received the Covid vaccine in the U.K. will find themselves in a similar situation.

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