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‘We’re in limbo’: The foreigners in Spain who can’t get a Digital Covid Certificate for travel

Scores of foreign residents in Spain have faced challenges getting their Covid-19 vaccines, but now that most have found ways to get the jab, some are reporting troubles gaining access to Spain's Digital Covid Certificate for travel.

'We're in limbo': The foreigners in Spain who can't get a Digital Covid Certificate for travel
The foreigners who are having problems getting a Covid Certificate. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Spain’s Certificado COVID Digital is issued by health authorities in the country’s 17 regions and two autonomous cities and, although not essential for travel, it does make verifying a traveller’s Covid health status faster and easier at the airport or port. 

People in Spain who have been fully vaccinated, received a negative test or recovered from Covid can use this digital or paper proof to travel across the EU, as the system is integrated and accepted across all member states. 

Galicia and the Canary Islands are so far the only regions to accept the Digital Covid Certificate for citizens to access the interior of bars, restaurants and other establishments, something Spain’s Health Ministry isn’t fully in favour of.

All in all, having this recognised and official proof that you aren’t a Covid-19 carrier or that you’re immune to the coronavirus is very useful, especially for fully vaccinated people who want to enjoy their renewed freedoms.

READ ALSO: How to get a Digital Covid Certificate for travel from Spain to the EU

Unfortunately, as the emails we’ve received and our research suggests, not all foreigners in Spain have succeeded in downloading this handy document.

No public health details means no access

The main reason that many are not able to get their Digital Covid Certificates is the fact that they were not registered with public health when they got their vaccine and therefore do not have a public health card number to be able to access the system and download the certificate online.

After numerous foreigners in Spain with private healthcare complained about not being able to get the vaccine, all Spanish regions eventually remedied this by allowing them to temporarily sign up to their region’s public health system.

In the Valencia region, they issued residents with a temporary SIP card, while in Catalonia, between April and May, the Catalan government opened up Covid-19 vaccine appointments to those without a CAP card. It was reported that around 5,700 foreigners in Catalonia got their jabs during this time.

Spain’s regional health departments also issue normal vaccination certificates but these are generally meant for informational purposes rather than travel (some don’t have a QR code), and it would depend on the rules of the country you were travelling to from Spain to ascertain whether they can be used for travel.

Other issues with getting vaccination proof

Unfortunately, some foreigners who were issued temporary health numbers haven’t been able to get their digital health passes either.

Briton Amanda wrote on the Brexpats Valencia Facebook group that she was having trouble getting her digital vaccination certificate with her temporary SIP card number and some of her information had been registered incorrectly. “I have been to the health centre three times to try to resolve this,” she wrote, but is still unable to get her certificate. 

Renan meanwhile wrote on the Barcelona Expats Group that he had gotten his jab without a CAP card from one of the Red Cross points in the city and is now is unable to get his digital certificate for travel as he doesn’t have a CAP number to put into the app and download one.

Tim in Andalusia explained he was facing a similar issue when he wrote on Spain Expats Facebook group that he was having trouble accessing his certificate as he didn’t have a health number or “digital identity”.

Reacting to the problems, public health secretary for Catalonia Carmen Cabezas told CatalanNews: “When a person has no health card ID number or has had the first dose in another country, they will experience difficulties.” 

No access for tourists who get Covid-19 while in Spain

As Spain doesn’t allow non-residents to access vaccination, testing or recovery certificates through its regional health system, tourists who catch Covid-19 while they’re here on holiday face an uphill battle when trying to get a Spanish Digital Covid Certificate for their trip back home.

One reader based in Germany who got Covid-19 while on holiday in the Canary Islands told the Local Spain: “Our main concern is who will provide us with a recovery certificate. Everyone we have contacted has been saying they are not responsible”.

As they had the virus less than six months ago, they still cannot get the jab and cannot get a recovery certificate either, if they tested positive with an antigen test rather than a PCR test.

“I think it’s odd that there is nobody to issue a recovery certificate for foreign visitors visiting Spain. I’m sure there are many people who are stuck in limbo like us”.

READ ALSO – Reader question: How do I prove I have recovered from Covid in Spain?

Problems with getting recovery certificates

It’s an issue that affects both tourists visiting Spain and foreigners living in the country who aren’t registered on the country’s public health system.

Resident Rebecca wrote on another expat group on Facebook that she “tested positive unfortunately, although I’ve been so careful with everything. I went to the local hospital and asked for a PCR but they didn’t give me one, instead, I got an antigen test. I read that only a PCR test is valid to get a certificate of recovery. I haven’t gotten my vaccine yet and the local hospital nurses seem to have no clue about the certificate”.

Foreigners in Spain are having problems getting their Digital Covid Certificate. Photo: JOEL SAGET / AFP

Another issue similar to this, which seems to be unique to Catalonia is that the Catalan public health clinics are no longer giving PCR tests to those who have symptoms, only antigen tests. You need a PCR test to be able to get the Digital Certificate to show you’ve recovered from Covid-19, but it cannot be from a private clinic, it has to be from the public health services.

Karina, who also lives in Barcelona, told The Local Spain it’s like catch 22 and however many people from the health authorities she talks to, no one can tell her how to get the certificate. Since she has now recovered from Covid and tested negative, there is no PCR proof that she ever had Covid-19.  

Vaccinated outside of the EU

Then there are the residents who were vaccinated outside of the EU and cannot get their Digital Certificates as their vaccination status is not on the system.

Valentina posted on the Spain Expats group on Facebook to say that she got vaccinated in Ethiopia but hasn’t found any way to register her inoculation in Spain to get her certificate.

US national Brit, who went back home to get her vaccination, posted on the American Society of Barcelona page and asked if there was any way for the system to recognise her US vaccine certificate or “am I just destined to pay €200 for a PCR every time I want to leave the country?”.


Member comments

  1. Absolute nightmare , private health insurance of no use as vaccine government controlled. After much effort got vaccinated in Castilla La Mancha , but only “proof” hand drawn piece of paper . Completely unable to get EU certificate as no health number , staff at health center not able to help , contact points within CLM health also unable to help. This situation is completely against EU laws which require legally resident foreigners to be treated similar to citizens – in Spain right now specifically Castilla La Mancha , if you are a legal resident with private health insurance you have no way to prove you have been vaccinated ! This affects people in different ways , those who have to travel for work or other reasons are hardest hit , but when or if restrictions locally require showing EU certificate what are we supposed to do ? Whilst grateful to be able to get the vaccine , now being a third class citizen because I have private insurance leaves a very unpleasant feeling , maybe withholding our income taxes would get attention ! Hoping an socially minded attorney will take up the cause 🙂

    1. Hi Ian, similar situation here and I need to travel to the UK in a few weeks. I just have a printout from the health center with my vaccination schedule and am still unable to get the EU digital certificate. Have been trying to solve this for two months.

      How did your situation work out? Any advice?

      1. Hi Bill,

        Finally did get it resolved , had to apply via a form which was able to be emailed , eventually took almost 3 months. Originally followed instructions and submitted form in July via regional web interface – never did get an answer through that “official” way . Through the grapevine discovered email address of our provincial hospital deadline with vaccinations ,who I contacted and did get an answer , sent them copies of forms submitted in July and within a few days had a printed certificate – of course not digital so I just keep email copy on my phone. In Denmark my daughters third shot ( booster ) was on her digital record in under 2 hours ! Where are you located ? Good luck !

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Spain set to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to over-80s

As Spain prepares to remove masks in most indoor public spaces, health authorities are planning to soon offer a second Covid-19 booster dose to people over 80 and those in care homes.

Spain set to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to over-80s

According to a report by Spain’s Vaccine Committee published on April 18th, Spanish health authorities will most probably start to offer a second booster dose to over-80s and care home residents in early May 2022.

Until now, the fourth dose has only been made available to around 120,000 people in Spain classified as vulnerable, including people with cancer, HIV patients, those who have had a transplant or are receiving dialysis.

The decision, which still has to be finalised by Spain’s Health Ministry, comes as the national government prepares to scrap the rule on April 20th which requires mask wearing in indoor spaces.  

READ MORE: Where will you still need to wear a mask indoors in Spain?

On April 6th, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) backed a second booster dose for over-80s, but added that it was “too early to consider using a fourth dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax) in the general population”.

Around 50 percent of Spain’s population has had a Covid-19 booster dose (less potent than the inital two-dose vaccination), but the rates are lower among younger people.

The Spanish government has changed its stance towards the pandemic in recent weeks, essentially treating Covid-19 like another endemic disease similar to the flu, and focusing its efforts on reducing infections in high-risk groups rather than among the general population as whole.

Sánchez’s administration has decided to stop counting and reporting on each and every case,  removed quarantines for asymptomatic and mild cases, and after a long wait, relaxed indoor mask wearing rules (in force from April 20th). 

Other countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy and France have already started offering an extra booster dose to its elderly population and those with weakened immune systems.