Holidaymakers from England can prove their Covid vaccination status through the NHS app, but it’s not yet accepted by some countries, while certification for residents of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differs.
Vaccine certificates have been introduced in a bid to make travel easier. Some countries, like Greece, have said double-jabbed travellers can enter the country without tests and the NHS app can be used to evidence their vaccination status. But Greece is the exception, and rules can be confusing elsewhere.
For example, vaccinated travellers to Portugal also must show a negative PCR test. Those who are unvaccinated must show a negative test too, but also must quarantine for 14 days. However in Madeira, if you have been vaccinated you can skip the PCR test on entry requirement. You can use the NHS app or letter as proof.
Individual EU countries also have their own rules on which vaccines they accept, with concern that some nations may not allow travellers entry who have had a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in India, which the EU refers to as Covishield.
Below, we outline which countries will let you in using the NHS app, how to download the app, and what to do if you don’t own a smartphone.
How do I get the NHS app and how will it help me travel?
If a country says you can gain entry based solely on being fully vaccinated (rather than tested), the NHS app can be used to generate a QR code proving you’ve had two doses.
The app – that is called NHS – can be downloaded on iOS and Android mobiles. You must be registered with a GP service in England to be able to use it and be aged 13 or over.
You can download the app by typing in ‘NHS’ into the search bar of your iOS ‘App store’ or Android ‘Play Store’ and clicking install. The correct app is just called NHS, it is not the NHS Covid-19 app, nor is it the Ask NHS app. When it’s downloaded, you’ll need to set up a log in – click the button ‘Continue with NHS login’ to do this and instructions will guide you through the process. You’ll need an email address, phone number, date of birth, postcode and your NHS number to hand (though there are ways to prove who you are without having this NHS number).
Once this is set up, you should be able to see basic health information on the app. To see further details such as immunisations, you’ll need to prove who you are by uploading photo identification. If you still cannot see your vaccine status more than a week after doing this, contact your GP surgery and request access to your detailed records.
Because it could take more than a week for your identity to be checked to enable you to use the NHS app, bear this in mind if you are travelling soon. You may need a bigger window than this too if you have to ask your GP for access to your records, so leave plenty of time.
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How do you find your vaccination status on the NHS app and use it to travel?
In the app, click the tab ‘share your Covid-19 status’. On the next screen, hit ‘continue’ and then ‘travel’ and it should generate a QR code. This can be downloaded as a PDF, or you can ask for it to be sent to your email address.
However, not all countries will necessarily accept the QR code as proof, so you need to check this on the government website before travelling so that you don’t come unstuck.
Additionally, some countries require a negative test result regardless of your vaccination status. Don’t assume you can travel somewhere based on your inoculations, check the entry requirements. See more on whether you need a coronavirus vaccine to travel.
Read our checklist for travel to ensure you’ve got all the information and documents you need before jetting off this year
What if you don’t have a smartphone to download the NHS app in England?
You can use the NHS app service online from your computer. Do not call your GP to request proof of your vaccination status.
If you do not have access to a computer and you live in England, you can call 119 to request paper proof of your vaccinations. You should only request a letter in this way if you’ve had both jabs (wait five working days after your second to request one), are planning to travel in the next four weeks and you cannot access the digital service.
Expect to wait up to seven working days for the letter to reach you – allow plenty of time to receive it if you are travelling soon. It will automatically go to the home address registered with your GP – make sure this is correct before calling.
You can’t see your vaccination status on the app or generate a QR code, why?
Sometimes when you request a QR code, you might see a message saying ‘no Covid-19 records found’. This could be because you’re not vaccinated or the app hasn’t finished verifying you yet. It could also be because you haven’t gained full record access from your GP. Ask your GP surgery to give you access to your detailed coded record.
Once you can see your vaccination status on the app, a QR code request should work.
Another reason for not being able to see your status is because you’ve been on a Covid-19 vaccine trial.
What if you’ve booked a holiday but haven’t had the vaccine? Can you still go?
This depends on the entry requirements of each country. Many destinations will accept proof of a negative Covid test instead of being fully vaccinated. Some will only accept proof of a negative test, or full vaccination.
Check the entry requirements before booking and travelling so that you don’t get caught out. You can find this on the government website.
What about Indian made AstraZeneca vaccines. Can I travel to the EU?
Some reports have suggested that an estimated five million UK citizens might not be allowed entry to some EU countries because their AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India won’t be accepted
These vaccines, which the EU refers to as Covishield, are not currently approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). All other AstraZeneca vaccines administered in the UK, known in the EU, as Vaxzevria have been approved.
You can find out which version of AstraZeneca you have had by the batch number. The Indian manufactured versions are said to be batches 4120Z001, 4120Z002, and 4120Z003.
However, it’s unlikely you need to be concerned. Several countries, such as Spain, accept all WHO approved vaccines, which includes Covishield. And, as Covidshield and Vaxzevira are the same vaccine, the EMA is likely to add it to its list of approved vaccines in the near future.
Crucially, no UK resident has been prevented from entering a country because of where their AstraZeneca vaccine was manufactured. The department for Health and Social Care said: ‘All AstraZeneca vaccines given in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS Covid Pass as Vaxzevria. The European Medicines Agency has authorised this vaccine and we’re confident travel will not be affected.’
Can Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland residents use the NHS app?
Residents in Wales have been told that they will be able to access electronic vaccination certificates imminently. This will not be available through the NHS app, instead you will have to access it through a website.
In the meantime, you can request a vaccination certificate, through your local health board in writing, or by phone. Do not contact your GP for this.
If your travel is urgent and essential and you cannot get a test in time or quarantine to meet a country’s entry requirements, you can call 0300 303 5667 to request a vaccination certificate. However, it can take up to 10 working days for this to arrive.
People in Scotland can request a vaccine certificate from the NHS inform website. To log in, use your unique username and password, which can be found in your coronavirus vaccination appointment letter. Alternatively, call 0808 196 8565 if you’re due to travel in the next three weeks. This will be replaced in future by digital certificates.
People in Northern Ireland cannot currently use the NHS app, or request a letter by phone.
An alternative is being worked on. This proof will initially be a paper-based format and will be available by early to mid-July. A digital certification process will be in place later in the summer.
Can I use the NHS app or equivalent to gain entry to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece or France?
Some countries will permit entry to double-jabbed travellers, but not all will accept the app as proof. Check before travelling.
The UK is currently rated as amber by France. This means you cannot enter unless you have both proof of vaccination and proof of a negative Covid test. You must have both. France will accept the NHS app or NHS letter (or equivalent in Scotland and Wales) as proof of vaccination.
Greece will let you in based on your vaccination status and does accept the NHS app or letter.
Italy does not permit entry currently based on vaccination status, so you do not need to use the NHS app.
Mainland Portugal and the Azores will not accept proof of vaccination as a way to enter the country, so the app is not helpful. However, the test requirement is dropped in Madeira and Porto Santo if you have been double-jabbed. Both islands accept the NHS letter or equivalent, but do not accept the QR code on the app.
UK travellers can freely enter mainland Spain at present, so there is no need to use the app to prove you’ve been inoculated. You need to show proof inoculation or a negative Covid-19 test at regulated tourist accommodation though in the Canary Islands. Despite asking the Spanish embassy, it is not clear whether the NHS app will be accepted.
Entry requirements are constantly changing, so you need to check the Gov.uk website before travelling or booking a holiday.