Austria's participation in the EU Green Passport slightly delayed
The "Green Pass" and its EU-wide introduction is delayed by a few weeks and will only be activated for EU travel here in the course of July. Here is our update on the rules and formalities and some warnings about scams.
Advantages of the Green Pass
The Green Pass does not replace other existing and still valid health certificates. The existing proofs include all officially recognised vaccination certificates (e.g. the yellow vaccination certificate or vaccination card of some federal states), a certificate of segregation that is not older than 180 days or a common test certificate. The Green Pass is a technical supplement and is intended to facilitate the verification procedure. It is also possible to travel without a Green Pass or to consume services within the country that require the 3 certificates (vaccinated, tested, convalescent). For example, if one can prove one's Corona health status with a written document, either in the local language or in English, in accordance with the entry regulations of the country concerned, this is also sufficient. However, using a green passport abroad makes it much easier to use services and visit restaurants or sights, etc., especially if you can prove immunity or a test no longer than 48 hours ago in a completely standardised way with the EU's Digital COVID Certificate.
Naming clarified - rest remains as before
What is the official name of the Green Pass in the EU? In our last article on this topic, it was still unclear whether the EU Parliament or the EU Commission would prevail in the naming of the document, as the EU Parliament wanted the original Green Digital Certificate to fulfil further requirements and thus wanted to point to improvements with the name change. The EU now officially refers to the "EU Digital COVID Certificate" (EUDCC). Nothing has changed in the basic properties:
EUDCC is available to EU residents who have been
- vaccinated against COVID-19
- have received a negative test result, or
- have recovered from COVID-19
- available in digital and/or paper format with a uniform appearance
- equipped with a QR code to prevent fraud attempts
- free of charge
- available in national language and English
- forgery-proof and data-protected
- valid throughout the EU
Why not in June already?
Originally, it was announced in April that the EU-wide introduction would take place in early / mid-June. However, the delay in the introduction at the beginning of July is not due to the EU, the gateway - i.e. the server-side cross-border infrastructure - was available in time from 1 June. The Member States are working on linking the national data systems with the technical EU server infrastructure and many were not able to keep to the original, more ambitious schedule of 4 June. In Austria, domestic political resistance, mainly due to the central storage of private data in the state´s databases, caused a further delay. In political announcements, government representatives aimed to be among the early adopters. However, this timetable was not met. Showing a smartphone with the QR code of the Austrian Green Pass to visit restaurants or cultural institutions has been working since yesterday (10 June), but vaccinated people will only be able to do so from 1 July; so far, this has only been possible for people who have recovered or been tested. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland have already been technically connected to the EU gateway since the beginning of June and these seven EU countries are already issuing the first EU certificates.
In Austria, the introduction of the Green Pass is being worked on in three phases:
- Phase 1 ran since 19 May 2021 - Existing evidence in the context of the opening steps (hard copy printout, vaccination card).
- Phase 2 in the course of June 2021 - Implementation of the Digital Green Passport in Austria "without vaccinated persons" for the time being
- Phase 3 from the beginning of July 2021 - The Green Pass (EUDCC) becomes fully EU compliant and is technically connected to the EU Gateway
By the end of June, the "warm-up" phase is similarly underway for most EU Member States. This means that countries have laid the legal foundation and already declared national bodies from the health sector that are allowed to issue such certificates. A reassessment of the travel situation in the EU and a recommendation from the EU Commission is expected in mid-June. From the first of July until 12 August, those Member States that could not actively participate in the EUDCC for the time being will be included. They have 6 weeks to join the EUDCC with other formats of their own health certificates within the framework of the EU Regulation (in force from 1 July 2021).
With the Green Passport (EUDCC), the three health certificate requirements (3-G proof) are also guaranteed when entering Austria and the verification of the QR code (whether digitally on the smartphone or printed out) is simplified by the executive e.g. at the airport. At this point we would like to emphasise once again that the Green Pass is not a mandatory requirement for travelling in the EU!
The classic entry requirements to Austria according to the three health certificates rule and depending on the country with which risk level one enters do not change with the introduction of the Green Pass. The generally applicable entry requirements are well summarised on many websites such as the WKO or ÖAMTC. In addition to the detailed FAQ page of the Ministry of Social Affairs, we recommend, especially for those expecting visitors from abroad, the well laid out info page of the Austrian Tourist Board in German or English (as of 10 June 2021!). Since 10 June, the 72-hour registration requirement before entering Austria (the so-called "pre-travel clearance") before arriving from safe countries, for which the quarantine requirement is also waived in the case of 3-G proof, has been abolished. The law lists the following countries as Annex A countries with a low risk of infection: Andorra, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Principality of Liechtenstein, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, South Korea, Vatican.
However, as this list is subject to change and the law expires on 30.6.2021, travellers should definitely check the current status on the government website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that they do not have to go into unexpected quarantine when returning to Austria!
Not all Austrian convalescence certificates are valid abroad
In Austria, those who have already recovered from a Covid 19 infection can prove this in the following way and it will be accepted domestically under the 3-G rules. The certificate of segregation is valid for six months from the date of automatic issuance by the health authorities. The doctor's confirmation is also valid for six months if the infection has been proven by molecular biological tests (PCR). A positive antibody test is valid for three months from the date of issue and can be renewed by medical laboratories at a charge.
However, you have to be careful here when travelling abroad! These three possibilities (and also the self-test at home registered by the authorities in Austria) are not recognised for the EUDCC when travelling abroad. For the EU-compliant EUDCC, a convalescence certificate is required, which is available in the electronic health record ELGA on the website of the Austrian health portal. These certificates are created automatically and eleven days after an infection and are valid for six months. As an alternative to retrieving it via ELGA registration using a citizen card, this certificate can also be printed out free of charge by municipal offices, district administrative authorities or the ELGA ombudsman's office.
24/7 Hotline for the Green Pass run by the Austrian Ministry of Health: 0800 555 621
Counterfeit in circulation
Criminals have created a fake app that leads Austrian users to believe that they have installed the digital green passport. Apart from the danger of stolen data, the particularly piquant thing about the "Corona Green Pass Austria" app is that if you show the QR code there, you can make yourself liable to prosecution for the offence of "document forgery". For example, if you use it to gain access to a service that is linked to a 3-G requirement, such as when visiting catering or leisure facilities. Apart from possible criminal prosecution, this is a violation of the COVID-19 opening regulation and can be punished with an administrative fine of up to 500 euros. You can find more details on the warning page of the Ministry of Social Affairs and also on the more detailed article page of Watchlist Internet. Service providers in particular should take a closer look at the Watchlist Internet article, as the QR code does not appear to be a fake at first glance.
Beware of dubious entry form sites
For some countries, there are also fake websites that pretend to be part of the national entry regulation with digital registration obligation, as it was in force for Austria until 10 June. Or they promise more convenient processing of entry formalities for users, without any way of verifying whether this service is actually provided. Here, too, we would like to refer to the warnings of Watchlist Internet against German and Croatian fee-based provider sites. In the case of the provider for Germany, it is not possible to check whether the service - i.e. the transfer of data to the authorities - has been carried out at all in accordance with the rules. In the case of Croatia, the payment is even pointless, as the state website offers this service free of charge and, above all, voluntarily for the purpose of faster processing at the border when entering the country and not, as the unofficial website suggests, as a basic requirement for entry.