US Embassy issues travel warning for Americans over French vaccine pass

The US Embassy in Paris has issued a warning to American tourists over the French vaccine pass, which has created travel headaches for visitors from the USA.

US Embassy issues travel warning for Americans over French vaccine pass
American vaccination certificates and test certificates are not compatible with the French system. Photo: Chris Demas/AFP

The US Embassy in Paris has issued a warning, saying it “strongly recommends” that Americans do not travel to France until they have received a booster shot.

This comes after numerous readers of The Local had raised issues over the vaccine pass. 

What are we talking about?

This relates to the vaccine pass, in operation since January 24th and required to gain access to venues including bars, cafés, gyms, leisure centres, tourist sites, museums, cinemas, ski lifts and long-distance trains, and problems refer to people either vaccinated or tested in the USA.

It does not apply to the rules of entry to France. At the border you can use your American CDC card as proof of vaccination. Vaccine boosters shots are not required to enter France.

However, once you’re here you will probably want to visit a few cafés or tourist sites, or travel on a TGV train, which is where the vaccine pass comes in.

How do I get a vaccine pass?

Many countries issue vaccination certificates which are compatible with the French vaccine pass, but unfortunately the US is not one of them.

That means if you were vaccinated in the US, once you are here in France you will need to visit a pharmacy in order to swap your vaccination certificate for a QR code that the French pass will read – full details on the process HERE.

Do I need a booster to use the pass?

You might, yes, since France in many instances requires a booster shot to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’.

If you have already received your booster shot then you are fine.

If you have not had a booster and more than seven months has passed since your last shot, you are no longer considered ‘fully vaccinated’ and cannot get a vaccine pass. This does not apply to entry to France.

On February 15th this limit is cut to four months. After that date if you have not had a booster and four months has passed since your second shot, you cannot get the pass. If you have already had the booster then the four-month limit does not apply to you.

The four-month limit is likely to pose a problem for visitors from many countries where boosters are not routinely offered after such a short gap, which includes most US states.

The Local has raised this issue with French authorities.

READ ALSO Can I get a booster while in France as a tourist?

What about children?

Children under the age of 12 do not require any type of pass.

Children aged between 12 and 15 can use the health pass – this means that a negative Covid test, performed within the previous 24 hours, can be accepted for entry to vaccine pass venues if the child is not fully vaccinated.

Children aged between 16 and 18 need a vaccine pass, but do not require a booster in order to be considered fully vaccinated. If they are vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca they will need to have had the full course of two shots, and be at least 7 days after the second shot.

Over 18s require the vaccine pass with boosters as described above.

Are there any other options if I’m not ‘vaccinated enough’ for the French?

Alternatives are limited. Under the old heath pass system, people had the option of presenting a negative Covid test instead, but this is no longer accepted as France moves to push more people into getting vaccinated.

There is an option for a Certificate of medical exemption – we explain that in full here but the process is so complicated as to be virtually inaccessible to those who don’t live in France.

The final option is proof of recent recovery from Covid (see below).

What if I have recently had Covid?  

For those not vaccinated, the French vaccine pass also accepts a positive Covid test certificate that is more than 11 days old but less than six months old. Those who are vaccinated but caught Covid before they could get the booster are also able to show a recent positive test instead instead of a booster shot certificate.

However, there is a problem here for anyone who tested positive in the USA – and it again relates to the lack of a QR code on the majority of American test certificates.

If you caught Covid while in France or another EU country, your positive test result (antigen or PCR) certificate will have a QR code on it that can be scanned for the vaccine pass.

A number of non-EU countries also provide tests recognised by the bloc. These include: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Cape Verde, El Salvador, the Faroe Islands, Georgia, Israel, Iceland, Lebanon, Lichtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, the UAE, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vatican City. 

Unfortunately, however, the USA is not on on this list, and the lack of a QR code on certificates is a barrier to any agreement being put in place on mutual recognition of certificates.

Your best hope is to go to a French testing site with proof that you tested positive overseas and politely ask one of the staff if they are able to issue you with a QR code. Some readers report having successfully done this, but be aware that it’s not a required service.

Where can I go without the vaccine pass?

Not all venues in France require a vaccine pass – without one you can enter; shops, most workplaces (with the exception of cinemas, theatres etc that require the pass for visitors), short-distance trains and city public transport such as the Paris Metro, parks and gardens, outdoor gyms and beaches.  

What does the Embassy say?

The US Embassy in Paris told us: “Current Covid-related US and French guidelines put into place for the protection of its citizens and travellers can differ. 

“These include timelines for boosters (rappels) and what constitutes a valid certificate of recovery from Covid.  In addition, requirements for entry into France differ from the requirements for a “pass vaccinal.”  As a result, American tourists in France might find themselves unable to obtain the necessary documentation to access museums, restaurants, TGV and other spaces. 

“We strongly recommend that US citizens not travel to France until they have received a booster in the US and that they review information provided by the French government regarding requirements at the time of travel (for both entry and access to public spaces) before they purchase tickets to travel.”  

Further info can be found HERE.

The Local has raised these issues relating to the vaccine pass with French authorities and we will update this article when we receive further information.

Member comments

  1. Will the QR code in the Pass Sanitaire that I received last October still work or will I need to get the new vaccine pass?

    1. If your Pass Sanitaire shows that you also got the booster shot (its also called Vaccination 3 of 3), then it will work now automatically. If it doesnt, then it will not work. If you were boosted in the USA for example, you will need to have that shown in your Pass Sanitaire.

      I had my first 2 shots done in the USA and I got a Pass Sanitaire at a vaccination center in France (they required my CDC card and passport). I was then boosted in France and that is shown in my Pass and it totally works.

      A bit complique? Oui !!!

  2. We went to a pharmacy (on the list of pharmacies that convert US Vax cards) in November with our cards showing that we had been boosted and the pharmacist added the booster vaccination to our pass sanitaire. We already had our pass sanitaire showing our first two vaccinations ((which we received in August via the e-mail system that was in place at the time)). 36 Euros each. On January 15 the tous AntiCovid app showed that the pass for the 2/2 had expired but the 3/3 pass was still valid. Scott Brown

  3. Thank you kindly Mark for your thorough and thoughtful reply. I had my booster showing on my CDC vaccination card before I applied for the Pass Sanitaire. So hopefully that will be fine but I’ll check the email I received from the French Government last September to see if it shows 3 of three. Thanks much!

  4. Hello member’s,
    Can anyone send a link pharmacies addresses in Nice or Cannes, which ones can help with transferring cdc to Tout Anti pass.
    Last summer we tried to get this pass before we left France, it was no luck. We got temporary one when we left ( test one). And by that time they were pushing mostly the locals, not tourists. We got our booster in US and we don’t have that pass yet. And it will be 6 months already passed ( in a few days) by then, and we are planning to visit France this summer. Can we get ahead of our travel this QR pass or only in France? Can we still enter it? According to this article it shouldn’t be a problem to enter to France, but when we are there we have to show this QR code.
    What a headache, why to make things complicated, why US and France can’t make it easy for travelers. Thank you.

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France scraps Covid test requirement for all vaccinated travellers

The French government has announced the end of the requirement for a negative Covid test for all fully-vaccinated arrivals into the country.

France scraps Covid test requirement for all vaccinated travellers

Currently arrivals from within the EU do not require a test, but travellers coming from almost all non-EU countries, including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia, need to present a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours of departure.

However on Friday the government announced it was scrapping that requirement, saying: “proof of vaccination will be sufficient to come to France whatever country you are coming from, just as it was before the spread of the Omicron variant”.

The change comes into effect at 00.01am on Saturday, February 12th. 

Announcing the change, the statement from Prime Minister Jean Caxtex’s office said: “In view of the new phase of the pandemic characterised, in most countries, by the predominance of the Omicron variant and a high level of vaccination, the government has decided to lighten the health control system at the borders, particularly for vaccinated travellers.”

Travellers who are aged 12 and over, are not fully vaccinated and are coming from a country on the orange list (which includes the UK, and USA) cannot travel to France unless they have an essential reason – click HERE for the full list of accepted reasons.

Those who do qualify for travel will need to show a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours of their departure date, and quarantine on arrival in France.

A booster shot is not required to enter France, but may be needed to get a vaccine pass for entry to venues including bars, cafés and ski lifts.

EXPLAINED How does the French vaccine pass work?

The French change comes one day after the UK’s travel rules also changed, lifted the requirement for post-arrival tests for fully vaccinated travellers.

Vaccinated travellers can now travel between France and the UK with no testing required at all. 

READ ALSO The vaccine pass rules for travelling to France with children

France on Friday also announced an easing of its mask rules and a more relaxed health protocol for schools, in addition to the planned changes to health rules that come in next week