Traveling around Europe looks a lot different now than it once did. Previously, United States citizens could board a flight on a whim, hop on a few trains, and visit multiple countries in the course of a week without considering potential restrictions. In large part, US travelers didn’t need to worry about being denied the ability to cross borders or enter venues.

Now, European travel means constantly checking the most recent entry requirements, worrying about your PCR test results, and, most importantly, Europe’s Digital COVID Certificate. The EU’s Digital COVID Certificate is a pass that certifies your COVID-19 status. The program was implemented on July 1, 2021, as a streamlined and uniform way for countries and venues to check that visitors aren’t infected with COVID-19.

Here’s how it works.

What is the EU Digital COVID Certificate?

TThe Digital COVID Certificate is designed for travelers to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from the virus, or recently tested negative. It’s free to use, valid in all EU countries, and comes with a scannable QR code for maximum convenience. That means you don’t have to carry around your just-too-large-for-your-wallet vaccination card.

The pass is designed to coordinate the bloc’s COVID-response and help revive tourism. The pass contains a QR code with a digital signature for each authorized hospital, test center, or health authority. When scanned, it shows your vaccination or testing status to allow you to cross borders and enter venues easily if you meet the criteria. Entry requirements differ slightly for each country in the EU, but most require some proof of testing or vaccination.

While it’s relatively straightforward for residents of an EU member nation (as well as people from a select few other European countries) to receive the Digital COVID Certificate, it’s slightly more complicated for American citizens.

“Right now if you’re an American, not living in the EU, you could get the certificate if you ask the national authorities of a member state to give you that certificate based on some proof that you’ve been vaccinated, or had a recent Covid test,” an EU Commission spokesperson told CNN.

Italy is issuing a Green Pass (also called a COVID-19 Green Certificate) — an extension of the EU certificate — to non-EU citizens. The Green Pass proves the holder has been vaccinated with at least one vaccine dose, recovered from COVID-19 within the past six months, or tested negative within the past 48 hours, and will be required to enter movie theaters, museums, indoor sports venues, and indoor restaurants in Italy. School and university staff and students will also be required to have the pass. Starting September 1, Green Passes will be compulsory on domestic flights, trains, and some ferry services.

What about France’s Health Pass?

woman holding French Health Pass

Photo: sylv1rob1/Shutterstock

In early August, France began requiring the use of a QR-based digital Health Pass for citizens to visit restaurants, bars, museums like the Louvre, tourist venues like the Eiffel Tower, shopping malls, cafes, and more. The passes can be used to certify a person’s vaccination status or whether they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 in the past 72 hours. Many venues, including the Eiffel Tower, have been requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for weeks before the official requirement took effect. The digital Health Pass simply makes it easier to show proof of vaccination without having to carry around a physical card. Acceptable vaccinations are Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, and the pass is required at relevant venues for anyone over 18. Starting September 30, however, it will be required of children between 12 and 17 as well.

The French government announced that US travelers already in France or who arrive by August 15 can can apply for the French health pass online, by submitting a copy of their official CDC vaccine card, passport, and return airline tickets. Applications are currently being accepted from travelers 18 and older, as long as you’re already in Europe or plan to arrive by August 15. You’ll be asked to create an account to upload the required documents, then will receive a QR code that can be saved to your smartphone and scanned at venues across France. Travelers to France do not need a digital health pass to enter, though US citizens must prove that they’ve been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19. Once in France, US visitors can also get a temporary digital health pass, valid for just 72 hours, by getting a rapid antigen test locally.

What’s the deal with Denmark’s Coronapas?

Denmark joined France as one of the first countries in Europe to launch its own COVID-19 health pass to allow non-essential businesses to reopen safely. The Coronapas is available via app or on paper, certifying that citizens have been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus over the past 72 hours. It will also certify if an individual has recovered from the virus within the previous two to twelve weeks.

The passport currently allows citizens to access non-essential businesses like salons, movie theatres, museums, indoor restaurants, water parks, and any venue with over 500 seated spectators. You also need a Coronapas to enter outdoor events like concerts and soccer matches with over 2,000 seated spectators.