Destinations around the U.S. and the world are now requiring proof of vaccination for entry to indoor venues, such as museums, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, as well as places where large groups of people are gathering outdoors, e.g., concert venues and stadiums.
In destinations without federal mandates, individual provinces and cities have taken the matter into their own hands, issuing mandates for being vaccinated and/or testing negative before allowing entry to indoor establishments. In tandem, we’re seeing the launch (and use) of digital health passports to support these mandates.
As this trend only continues to grow, I've taken a closer look at how digital health passports work, the destinations that are adopting these policies, what traveler sentiment towards health passports looks like, plus how to keep up with changing travel requirements, below.
How does a digital health passport work?
A digital health passport (also called a health pass, vaccine passport, or COVID vaccine passport) provides a means to store your vaccination and COVID-19 test result information online and share it electronically with necessary parties, such as when you’re dining indoors, attending an event, or traveling.
Similar to other third party applications, a digital health passport stores your data only once within that application, and then verification is provided or displayed to outside parties in a way (e.g., via QR code) so that others don’t receive and store your health data, which could make it more vulnerable.
Supplemental reading: What Travelers Need to Know About Digital Health Passports
What destinations require proof of vaccination?
Exactly how you present this information, when, and where all vary based on the destination. Here’s a closer look at some of the destinations that currently require the use of a health passport—for locals and visitors alike. (Note: This isn’t a comprehensive list, and I expect it to evolve over time.)
France now requires all citizens and tourists to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result in order to access cafes, restaurants, bars, museums, theaters, sports events, some shopping centers, train travel, and more.
Venues accept both the “Pass Sanitaire” (digital health pass) and a paper vaccination card from patrons. You can read more about how to get a French Health Pass here.
Like France, Italy requires a “Bel Paese” (or, Green Pass)—proof of vaccination and/or a negative test result—for indoor dining and entry to museums, theaters, gyms, and more.
To obtain the Green Pass, you must show you’ve received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (one approved for use in the European Union), recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months, or a negative test result from within the last 48 hours.
New York, New York
In August, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced the “Key to NYC Pass”—a policy that will require customers and employees of indoor establishments to show proof of vaccination for entry. Establishments include bars and restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, as well as entertainment venues.
Earlier in the year, New York state launched a digital health passport called the Excelsior Pass. NYC establishments will accept the Excelsior Pass, a city-issued pass, or a person’s vaccination card as proof of vaccination.
Enforcement of the policy begins September 13, 2021.
Tip: You can find airline-recommended apps for the destinations you’re traveling to, including those that show proof of vaccination or a negative test result, in TripIt’s COVID-19 guidance feature.
New Orleans, Louisiana
As of August 16, 2021, the city of New Orleans requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter bars, restaurants, breweries, gyms, fitness centers, indoor sports complexes and stadiums, as well as indoor entertainment facilities, such as bowling alleys and casinos.
The state of Louisiana’s LA Wallet app now includes the ability to store your COVID-19 vaccination information. People can use the app to show proof of vaccination or a negative test; an original, digital photo, or photocopy of their vaccination card; or an official vaccine record issued by an approved entity.
As of September 1, 2021, Quebecers (and those visiting the destination) must show proof of vaccination to enter establishments like bars, restaurants, and sports venues.
The Canadian province has launched its own version of a digital health passport, the VaxiCode app. If you’re planning to visit Quebec, you’re not necessarily required to download the app. You can also provide proof of vaccination with your vaccination card as well as proof of identity (with an address outside Quebec) to gain access to the places where you would otherwise need the digital health passport.
San Francisco, California
Similar to the above destinations, the city of San Francisco has mandated proof of vaccination for entry to bars, restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, large indoor events, and any business (or event) serving food or drinks indoors.
Unlike some of the above destinations, you cannot provide a negative COVID-19 test instead of your vaccination information. You must prove that you are fully vaccinated.
The city has a list of approved apps, including CLEAR HealthPass and CommonPass, that people can use to upload and safeguard their vaccine credentials. CDC-issued vaccination cards are also accepted (both in physical and photographed form).
Are travelers willing to use a digital health passport to provide proof of vaccination?
Survey data released by TripIt in August showed that 84% of respondents would use a digital health passport, regardless of how they felt about it. Of those respondents, 49% loved the idea of a digital health passport, 18% liked the idea, and 16% disliked the idea—but would still use one. Just 16% of respondents said they hated the idea of a digital health passport and would not use one.
This sentiment remained mostly consistent with data TripIt released in March. At that time, 81% of travelers said the prospect of a digital health passport appealed to them and that they’d be willing to use one if it meant they could travel freely.
What else can travelers expect traveling during COVID-19?
In addition to requiring proof of vaccination, some destinations are setting an expiration date on vaccine validity. As of publication, Austria and Croatia have introduced new rules that limit the length of validity of vaccines to 270 days. You can still travel to both countries if you’re past the limitation, but will instead be required to show a negative test result (for now).
As travel requirements and guidelines continue to evolve, it’s critical to stay up to date on what your destination requires ahead of your trip. Consult the TripIt app for myriad resources, including the COVID-19 guidance feature for vaccination-related requirements and information, to always have the latest information you need for your trip.