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How Italy has updated its Covid health pass rules for visitors

Italy has introduced new measures to relax and simplify its Covid health measures for foreign visitors. Here's what you’ll need to know before your trip.

Tourists consult a map outside Milan's Duomo. Italy recently eased its Covid restrictions for boosted visitors.
Italy has simplified its Covid restrictions for boosted visitors. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP.

There has been a lot of confusion and uncertainty surrounding the rules on using health or vaccination passes in Italy recently after repeated rule changes by the government.

As a result, many people have been left wondering if their proof of vaccination or recovery will be recognised as valid in Italy.

The good news is that we now have more clarity about how the system will work for visitors in the coming weeks and months, after the Italian government last week issued a decree announcing new set of updates to the national rules.

The full text of the decree was published on Friday, and came into force on Saturday, February 5th. Here’s what it says about the Italian rules for international visitors.

How long are vaccination passes valid for in Italy now?

After the rules were updated repeatedly last week, many people had been left wondering if their proof of vaccination or recovery would be recognised as valid in Italy – particularly if it was nearing six months since their last shot.

This confusion arose as the Italian government cut the validity of its ‘super green pass’ – issued after vaccination or recovery in Italy – and equivalent foreign documents down to six months on February 1st. 

But the next day, it amended the rules to state that vaccination certificates (Italian or foreign) would remain valid indefinitely if they are:

  • Based on three shots, or two if you had the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (the initial vaccination cycle plus a booster jab);
  • Or based on the initial vaccination cycle plus a certificate of recovery from Covid-19 within the past 180 days (six months).

The six-month validity period will now only apply to those who have a vaccination certificate based on just two shots (or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

This means that as of Saturday, boosted tourists can continue to access all venues and services in Italy as normal, even if their last shot was more than six months ago.

READ ALSO: Italy confirms unlimited Covid green pass validity after booster

It’s also worth noting that this set of health pass rules only applies within the country, and not when crossing the international border.

Italy currently has no maximum validity period for vaccine certificates when entering the country from outside the European Union: 

A bar owner uses the Verifica C-19 mobile app to scan a green pass in central Rome. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

If crossing borders within the EU, for example if travelling from France into Italy, a maximum validity period of nine months currently applies under Europe-wide travel rules. This applies to all travellers regardless of nationality.

Note: When entering Italy, requirements vary depending on the country you are travelling from, and these rules are subject to change at short notice. See an overview of the current rules here.

See the latest official guidance on the the Italian health ministry’s website as well as the latest travel information issued by your own country’s government.

Where do I need to show a health pass in Italy? Will a foreign-issued certificate be accepted?

Under Italy’s domestic ‘green pass’ system, the number of places where you won’t need to show any form of health certificate is small.

For entry to all leisure and tourism businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and bars, proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 is a requirement under Italy’s ‘super green pass’ rules.

This pass is also required for access to venues including museums, galleries, cinemas and sports stadiums. See a complete list here.

Meanwhile, most shops, post offices, banks and public offices in Italy require proof of either a negative test result, vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 (via a time-limited digital certificate known as a ‘basic’ green pass).

Per the new decree, fully-vaccinated and boosted tourists can continue to access all venues and services in Italy, even if their last shot was more than six months ago.

For those who are vaccinated or recovered, you should not need to obtain an Italian ‘super green pass’ – the certificate issued in your own country should be recognised on equal terms, as long as your vaccine was approved by either the Italian or European medicines agency.

The vaccines currently recognised by the EMA are: Cominarty (Pfizer), Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Spikevax (Moderna), Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) and Nuvaxovid (Novavax), plus Italy recognises Covishield, R-CoVI, and Covid-19 vaccine-recombinant (Fiocruz).

What if I haven’t had a booster shot?

If you completed the primary vaccination cycle more than six months before your trip to Italy and have not had a booster jab, the decree states you will still be able to access venues and services in Italy using a short-term ‘basic’ green pass issued after a negative test result.

The new decree introduces this alternative that will allow visitors in this category to use public transport and enter venues in Italy that would otherwise be restricted.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s latest decree changes the Covid rules

Passengers wearing protective masks at Milan’s Linate airport. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Visitors in this situation will need to get a negative result from a rapid antigen (lateral flow) or PCR test administered by a certified provider (e.g., a pharmacy) to receive a pass that will then be valid for a limited duration: 48 hours in the case of a rapid test, 72 for a PCR test.

This pass will allow holders access to all venues and services that normally require a ‘super green pass’ or its equivalent.

Travellers in this category will need to take a new test every few days in order to renew their pass and retain access to all areas.

What if my vaccine is not recognised in Italy?

For the first time, Italy now has options for foreign visitors inoculated with vaccines that it doesn’t yet officially recognise.

That’s anything other than Cominarty (Pfizer), Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Spikevax (Moderna), Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), Nuvaxovid (Novavax), Covishield (Serum Institute of India), R-CoVI (R-Pharm), or Covid-19 vaccine-recombinant (Fiocruz).

As of February 5th, people in this category now have access to the same time-limited, test-based passes offered to travellers who have undergone a primary vaccination cycle with recognised vaccines but who are unboosted.

With the new rules, those who are fully vaccinated with non-recognised vaccines will also now be able to access places where a vaccine pass was previously required.

Can I get an Italian ‘green pass’ as a tourist?

While the Italian government’s decree states that proof of vaccination or recovery issued in other countries is valid for entry to those venues which require an Italian-issued ‘super’ green pass (vaccine pass), in practice it’s not unusual for small businesses in Italy such as bars and restaurants to reject foreign-issued vaccination certificates.

Italy’s rules on the recognition of health passes have changed frequently and, with heavy fines for business owners found not to be following them correctly, some appear to be especially cautious.

If you’re concerned about your vaccination certificate getting rejected while you’re in Italy, there’s another avenue to explore: converting your certificate into an Italian green pass.

This option is open to Italian citizens residing abroad or people who are registered with Italy’s national health service. And it may also be possible for foreign nationals who are not registered in Italy to have their vaccine certificates converted. 

This isn’t guaranteed, however: there is no nationwide rule covering this, so it all depends on the local health authority (Azienda Sanitaria Locale or ASL) of the area you’re visiting. Each office is responsible for setting up its own system for handling the process, which involves sending off your documents to be validated.

However, the process must be completed while you’re in Italy (and in the comune covered by the relevant health office) – so you can’t apply for an Italian green pass while in another country in advance of a trip to Italy.

A conversion is likely to take some time, effort and paperwork, so it’s not a solution for those making short trips – but it could make your life easier if you’re planning on staying in the country for a longer period.

How do these rules apply to children?

Children aged under 12 are not subject to the health pass requirement in Italy.

Italy allows children aged 5-11 to be vaccinated, but there is no obligation for this age group to show proof of vaccination under any circumstances.

Older children and teenagers aged between 12 and 18 are required to show a health pass on the same terms as adults, however.

This appears to still include 12-18 year-olds from countries which are not currently vaccinating this age group.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual situations. Please find more information about Italy’s current health measures on the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English).

Member comments

  1. Thank you for the great updates! Do you have information about the process to use non-EU proof of vaccination (for example, USA vaccination records showing 2 doses + Booster) to obtain a digital green pass? It appears that you can go to places like a pharmacy and show such proof, but it would be good to have confirmation

  2. Very helpful article! Thank you! Looking forward to any update on potential to convert my US Vaccine Certificate to a Digital Green Pass while I’m in Italy in May.

  3. Hi Clare, Thanks for your excellent explanations. I am still a little confused though; is proof of receiving a positive covid test which implies recovery after two weeks have passed and no symptoms, valid for travel in Italy? What exactly do they want this information to look like? How would one carry that around with them?

    1. Hi, thanks for your question. In the case of recovery from Covid, you would need to carry a certificate issued by your healthcare provider in your home country within the past 180 days. We’ll add some more information about this to the article.

      Best wishes,
      – Clare

  4. Unfortunately, none of the apps used by Italian restaurants, venues, museums etc., recognize the Canadian official vaccination travel Pan-Canadian record or code! Fortrunaley, these business show common sense and look at the specific vaccination records for clearance. However, it is time that the Italian app for QR code recognition gets updated. It is a major frustration!

  5. Thanks as ever for all your hard work deciphering the ever evolving situation. I know you use your words carefully but I’m concerned / confused by your statement: “For those who are vaccinated or recovered, you should not need to obtain an Italian ‘super green pass’ – the certificate issued in your own country should be recognised on equal terms, as long as your vaccine was approved by either the Italian or European medicines agency”.

    You say ‘should’ when in fact there is no way a tourist can obtain a digital green pass at the moment. I is my understanding (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that local establishments are obligated by law to accept the analog equivalents of vacccination certificates from the USA and Canada. Since I have had reports of tourists being turned away from restaurants, I just want to make sure that past decree (which states that the vaccine cards must be accepted) is still in place. It’s my understanding that it definitely is. What’s your take?

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your question. That’s right – and this most recent decree confirms that foreign-issued vaccination certificates are valid for entry to those venues and services where the Italian green pass is required.

      Sorry if I’ve caused confusion with the ‘shoulds’ in that paragraph. This is intended to mean that, while establishments are (as you note) obliged to recognise the validity of foreign-issued passes (including the analog type such as US CDC cards) there is no guarantee that every business will do so, and in fact we regularly hear about these cards being refused. As with so many things in Italy, the stated rules and the reality of their application can be two different things! I’ll try to clarify this part of the text.

      I’ve also added some information in an update to the article today about whether and how tourists might be able to obtain an Italian green pass.

      Thanks for reading,
      – Clare

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TRAVEL NEWS

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

A number of countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors.

EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks as long as they can prove residency in an EU country however they will still be caught up in any delays at passport control if the new system as many fear, causes longer processing times.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 countries to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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