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22 Oct 2021

NHS Covid passport app: everything you need to know about using it to travel

We explain the latest updates for travellers when it comes to proving your vaccinated status 
NHS app on phone

The NHS has announced that the validity of all Covid passes will be extended from 30 days to 180 days

Previously travellers were expected to download a new Covid pass every 30 days - an extra step of admin which has been known to catch many people out, causing extra stress at the airport. Following the NHS's latest announcement, Covid passes will be now be valid for six months.

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 been fully vaccinated.

The app - called 'NHS' - can be downloaded on iOS and Android mobiles. You must be registered with a GP service in England or the Isle of Man 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 knowing your NHS number). You can find out your NHS number via the NHS website.

Once this is set up, you should be able to see basic health information on the app. To check further details such as immunisations, you'll need to prove who you are by uploading photo identification, such as a passport or driving licence. 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.

Bear in mind that it could take some time for your identity to be checked, meaning there could be a delay before you're able to use the NHS app. So try to plan ahead where possible. Leave plenty of time if you're also planning to ask your GP for access to your records, as this could cause further hold-ups.


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NHS app stuck on the blue screen?

There is a chance that when you open the app it could get stuck on a blue loading screen. This may be because you need to update your phone's software so that it has the latest version installed. It could also be to do with restricted settings on your phone you need to change.  See more on ways to fix your NHS app

See more on ways to fix your NHS app.

Covid passport

How do you find your vaccination status on the NHS Covid passport 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. See here for foreign travel advice and click through to the country you plan to visit and then 'entry requirements'.

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 to see if you need a test, and if so, whether it needs to be a PCR test or a rapid lateral flow test. See our guides on reliable and cheap lateral flow day 2 tests as well as PCR tests.

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 a full course of jabs (wait five working days after your most recent dose 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.


Heading on holiday? Find out which airlines you can trust in our latest airline survey


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. On the NHS website, it says you should be able to get an NHS Covid Pass for travel soon, if not already. Whether you can access one depends on whether your clinical trial site has put your vaccination information on the NHS vaccine database. If you cannot get an NHS Covid Pass, you should contact your clinical trial site.


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What happens if the app stops working?

On 13 October, the NHS app stopped working for a few hours, causing concern and disruption for many of the people who needed it to go on holiday.

Because of this glitch, we recommend that you download your NHS Covid pass, print it and take it to the airport so that you have a backup. Without proof of your vaccine status you will be turned away at the boarding gate if the country you are travelling to requires it for entry.

We also asked seven airlines what they'd do if the app went down and customers didn't have another form of proof of their vaccination status when due to fly? This is what they told us:

BA

British Airways does not have a set policy in place for this scenario. However, BA still has its 'book with confidence' promise in place. Under this policy, passengers can rebook, or cancel and request a voucher for any reason right up until check-in for your flight closes. This policy applies to flight journeys due to be taken by 31 August 2022.

EasyJet

When disruptions occurred on 13 October, Easyjet allowed customers to transfer to a new flight without a change fee. However, it would not confirm what it would do in this scenario if it happened again, and has no set policy in place.

Jet2

Jet2 did not provide a response to our question.

Ryanair

Ryanair told us that in this situation, it would not offer a flight change or refund.

Tui

Tui told us it would ask the authorities in relevant destinations to allow a special permit to operate, so that customers could still travel. However, if they could not come to an agreement, it would allow customers to change their flight without charge - but customers would have to pay any fare difference,

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin has no set policy for this scenario. However, Virgin's current booking policy means a customer can rebook onto a different Virgin Atlantic flight up until check-in closing time. The change will be free, but if the flight is more expensive, you will need to pay the difference. This policy is in place until 30 April 2023.

Wizzair

Wizzair did not provide a response to our question.

What if you've booked a holiday but haven't had the vaccine? Can you still go?

woman with suitcase

This depends on the entry requirements of each country. Many destinations will accept proof of a negative Covid test instead of being fully vaccinated, and some don't have any entry requirements at all. 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?

Initially, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had not approved the AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in India, known in the EU as Covishield. Therefore some EU countries said they did not accept it and there were reports to suggest millions of UK citizens might not be allowed entry.

The EMA has now approved this version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, so most EU countries now recognise it. Crucially, we haven't heard of a UK resident that 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?

Wales

Residents in Wales can request Digital Covid Passes. These will not be available through the NHS app, instead you will have to access it through the Wales gov website.

If you do not have a device where you can access this website, or photographic ID (this is required to get a Covid pass online), then you can call 0300 303 5667 to request a certificate. However, it can take up to 10 working days for this to arrive.

Scotland

People in Scotland can use the free NHS Scotland Covid Status App to prove their vaccination status. This will allow access to a digital copy of your vaccine record on your mobile device. You need a passport or driver's licence to complete the identity check.

Alternatively, you can request a printed vaccine certificate or download a PDF 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.

Don't take a screenshot of your QR code - you must show the live version on the app. Similarly, you must take the letter along, it cannot be a photograph of the letter.

Northern Ireland

Anyone who received their vaccine in Northern Ireland can apply for a Covid vaccination certificate online and download it either online or via the COVIDCertNI App.

If you cannot apply online, you can request a paper version by phoning 0300 200 7814. This will take longer and you will need to verify your identity in person at an appointment. Once the checks are complete, it could take up to 10 days for the certificate to arrive.