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Vaccine pass for visitors in France – your questions answered

France now has in place a vaccine pass that is required for entry into a wide range of everyday venues including bars, cafés, tourist sites and long-distance trains - but this can be complicated for visitors or people vaccinated outside France.

Vaccine pass for visitors in France - your questions answered
Bars and cafés are among the French venues that require a vaccine pass. Photo: Sameer Al Doumy/AFP

Since January 24th, France has put in place a vaccine pass which is required to enter a wide range of venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, gyms, leisure centres, cinemas, theatres, museums, large events and long-distance trains.

In short, if you intend to spend time in France, you are going to need one if you want to do anything fun.

Previously a health pass was in place, which allowed for either proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, but from January 24th negative tests are no longer accepted for anyone aged 16 and older.

You can find more details on how the pass works HERE, but there are some issues which particularly affect tourists, visitors or people vaccinated outside France.

Do I need a vaccine pass to enter France?

No. When the French government talks about the vaccine pass, they mean the domestic pass required to access everyday activities in France.

Depending on where you are travelling from, you may need to show proof of vaccination at the border, but this can be a vaccination certificate from your home country.

Once you’re in France, however, you will most likely need the pass. 

How do I get a vaccine pass?

The vaccine pass isn’t a physical document, it just means that you need to show proof of either vaccination, recent recovery from Covid or a medical exemption in order to enter certain venues (more on those below).

Importantly, however, these documents must have a French QR code so that staff in venues can scan them.

Most people use the TousAntiCovid app, which is available on all smartphones and has an option in English, but you can show paper certificates if you prefer.

If you are travelling from an EU or Schengen zone country you can use your own country’s domestic health/vaccine pass, since all QR codes are compatible within the bloc.

I had a health pass when I came to France in the summer, is the vaccine pass the same thing?

In effect, yes. The health pass required either proof of vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or proof of a recent negative Covid test and most people used the TousAntiCovid app to show this (although you can also show paper certificates).

The vaccine pass doesn’t allow presentation of a negative test result, but in most other respects is the same, so if you have proof of full vaccination, nothing changes for you. Apart, that is, from boosters . . .

Do I need a booster shot to use the vaccine pass?

Probably, yes.

It depends on when you were vaccinated, but over 18s who have not had a booster more than seven months after their second dose are no longer counted as fully vaccinated. 

From February 15th, this window shrinks to four months.

If you have had the booster, it doesn’t matter if the gap between second dose and booster was longer than four or seven months, this concerns only those who have not received a booster shot.

The booster requirement applies to all vaccine pass users, including visitors.

However boosters are not required for travel, so in brief you can enter France without a booster, but you won’t be able to do much once you’re here.

Full details on who needs a booster HERE.

Will my vaccination certificate/booster shot certificate work with the French pass?

It depends on where you were vaccinated.

If you were vaccinated in the EU, Schengen zone or UK then you can scan the QR code on your vaccination certificate straight into the French app. This is also the case if you previously had a health pass and need to add a booster shot in order to keep it valid.

If, however, you were vaccinated in the USA, Canada, Australia or any other non EU/UK/Schengen country then things are a little more complicated. Once in France, you will have to take your vaccination certificate to an approved pharmacy in order to get a QR code that can be used with the French app. Full details HERE.

A vaccination certificate from your home country will be accepted at the border.

I’m not vaccinated but I have recently recovered from Covid, can I use the pass?

The vaccine pass requires one of three things; proof of full Covid vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or proof of a medical exemption (more on that below).

However, the proof of recent recovery must be in an accepted format.

You can find full details on that here, but again it depends on where you tested positive for Covid. If it was in the EU, UK or Schengen zone then you should be able to upload your positive Covid test to the French app. The test must be more than 11 days old, but less than six months old in order to be valid.

If you tested positive outside the EU, you may have a problem. Some countries provide positive tests in a format recognised by France but others – including the USA – do not.

You can find full details of compatible codes HERE.

I had Covid before I could get a booster, what should I do?

If you want to use proof of recent recovery from Covid instead of a booster shot, then it’s the same process as outlined above.

I can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, what can I do?

France does provide an option for medical exemptions, but the process is so complicated as to be virtually inaccessible to people who are just visiting France.

READ ALSO How can people who cannot be vaccinated use France’s vaccine pass?

In order to use the medical exemption clause, you require a French certificat de contre-indication, and getting one of these is not easy.

First you must fit the criteria of listed medical conditions which constitute an acceptable reason not to be vaccinated – and that is a short list.

Then you need a certificate from a French doctor stating that you cannot be vaccinated, certificates from doctors outside France are not accepted.

Once you have the certificate you need to send it to Assurance Maladie – the French state health insurer – which validates the certificate and issues you with a QR code that can be used with the vaccine pass. French residents can use an online process to send their certificate to Assurance Maladie, but this requires a French social security number. 

Where can I go without a vaccine pass?

The theory behind the vaccine pass is that people can do the essentials of daily life without it, but anything fun requires the pass.

It is not required for shops, short-distance transport or city public transport such as the Paris Metro, most workplaces, parks, beaches and outdoor gyms or when buying food or drink to take out.

It is required for; ski lifts, bars, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries, tourist sites (including outdoor sites), gyms, leisure centres, sports grounds, concerts, nightclubs (when they reopen), large events like festivals or long-distance train travel.

Are there any exemptions?

There are a couple of exemptions where a negative Covid test, taken within the previous 24 hours, is accepted instead of a vaccine pass.

  • If you need to travel on a long-distance train and have “imperative reasons of a family or health nature” such as going to visit a dying relative – you would need to present some proof of this.
  • A vaccine pass is required to access non-emergency medical treatment or to visit a medical or social establishment (such as a nursing home). If you do not have a vaccine pass you can use a negative test instead. Emergency medical treatment does not require a vaccine pass or a Covid test.

What about children?

  • A vaccine pass is required for anyone aged 16 or above.
  • Children aged between 12 and 15 are required to use the health pass, in which a negative Covid test no more than 24 hours is accepted for those who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Under 12s do not require any type of pass.

The definition of fully vaccinated for children is the same as for adults; to be at least seven days after two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines or 28 days after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Booster shots are not required for under 18s.

For children travelling from countries that have only recently started offering vaccinations to under 18s, or that only offer a single shot of Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna, this creates a problem as the children are unvaccinated by the French definition and face daily Covid tests in order to keep the health pass.

Do all these venues really check the pass?

Staff at any of the listed vaccine pass venues are supposed to check the pass on entry, but as ever in life, compliance is not 100 percent.

The majority of places do check, especially in the cities, but it can be variable. We’ve also heard anecdotal accounts of staff accepting non-French vaccination certificates, especially the American CDC cards, but be aware that this is not official policy.

It’s probably best not to chance it on a train – guards can remove you from the train at the next stop if you are found to be travelling without a valid pass.

And if you’re tempted to use someone else’s pass in order to gain access to a bar/café etc then we would strongly advise against this – that is vaccine pass fraud and there are very stiff penalties in place for this, including jail time.

Do you have a question on vaccine passes that is not covered here? Email us on [email protected] and we will do our best to answer it.

Member comments

  1. Will I be able to get a vaccine pass in France if my booster shot was administered MORE THAN seven months after my second dose? My first two doses here in the USA were in early 2021, and my booster was eight months later. Unfortunately, boosters here weren’t available until the fall, so it wouldn’t have have been possible for me to have arranged a booster any earlier here in the USA.

  2. Yes, you can get a vaccine pass. This was exactly our situation having been vaccinated in the US in January /February 2021. We received our boosters in France in September for my husband, and in November for me because I was under 65. We were able to convert our CDC cards into a Passe Sanitaire, and our booster was added to our passes when we received them.

  3. Our son lives in Paris and has been vaccinated there He wants to come to US to visit us. What will he need to do when he returns to France

  4. Hello,
    My son and partner are coming to Paris to visit us. How does he get a vaccine pass so we can enjoy the visit?
    Thanks!
    Carl

  5. Hello,
    My son and partner are coming to Paris from the US to visit us. How does he get a vaccine pass so we can enjoy the visit?
    Thanks!
    Carl

  6. Pingback: Anonymous
  7. I’ve just got the NHS vaccine pass and also the tousanticovid app.

    The anticovid app is asking me to scan the vaccine barcode but I have 3 codes. One each for the first and second shots and one for the booster. Which one should I scan?

    Also, do I actually need to scan anything or can I use the NHS codes without the anticovid app?

    Thanks

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COVID-19 RULES

Covid rules and vaccine pass: What changes in France on Wednesday

This week in France there are two big Covid-related changes - the second phase in the relaxation of health rules and changes to the vaccine pass validity. Here's what you need to know.

Covid rules and vaccine pass: What changes in France on Wednesday

It is a busy week in terms of changes to Covid policy in France, with Wednesday marking the latest phase in the gradual relaxation of the rules.

Here’s what changes;

Wednesday

  • Wider relaxation of Covid rules 

A number of Covid rules are being scrapped, which will be of huge relief to those working in the nightlife and cultural sector. 

Nightclubs will be open once again from Wednesday and cafés and bars will no longer be limited to table-service, meaning you will be able to drink at the bar and even have a boogie if you wish. 

Concerts and music gigs can also take place once again.

People will once again be allowed to eat in cinemas and sports grounds, as well as on trains and planes.

You can find the full calendar of upcoming changes HERE.

Several other changes have already come into force this week;

Monday

  • Vaccination centres told to show flexibility to unvaccinated

The health ministry sent a memo to vaccination centres on Monday, instructing them to allow people using fake health passes to wipe the record clean and initiate a real vaccination cycle. 

Up until Monday, people using fake passes had 30 days to inform a vaccination centre and receive their shots without facing legal consequences.

This 30 day limit no longer applies – and those working at vaccination sites no longer need to inform law enforcement authorities of people who were using fake passes. 

Tuesday

  • Vaccine pass rules change

Booster shots are now necessary for most people who want to hold a valid vaccine pass – which is required to use a wide range of venues including bars, cafés, ski lifts and tourist sites. 

Up until now, vaccine passes automatically deactivated if it has been more than seven months since your second dose and you have not yet received a booster shot. But on Tuesday, this time limit dropped to four months. Anyone who already had the booster is fine, even if their gap between second and third doses is more than four months.

READ ALSO Your questions answered about France’s new 4-month booster shot rule

Bear in mind that in certain circumstances, proof of previous infection from Covid means you would not have to receive a booster dose to carry on holding a valid vaccine pass. 

READ MORE If you’ve had Covid you may not need a booster for your vaccine pass

You can still use proof of recent recovery from Covid in lieu of being fully vaccinated as a condition to hold the health pass. But instead of lasting for six months, the validity of recent recovery drops to just four months on Tuesday. Remember that you can receive a booster once three months have passed since your infection. Full details on how to use recovery certificates HERE.

Finally, when the government introduced the vaccine pass, it offered an incentive to unvaccinated people to receive their first shot by saying that anyone who received their first dose between January 15th – February 15th would be able to use a negative Covid test to access vaccine pass venues. This exemption ends on Tuesday and now the vaccine pass requires everyone to have a full vaccination course, with seven days after the second dose.

  • Home-test kits withdrawn from supermarkets

Supermarkets are no longer able to sell Covid home-test kits (autotests) – you will now only be able to find these products in pharmacies. Over the New Year period, supermarkets were granted a license to sell these kits in order to allow for better  monitoring of the fifth wave. 

The maximum price of a Covid self-test is limited by the French government at €5.20, but many supermarkets were selling them for much cheaper prices.

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