China: Digital Vaccination Certificate for Citizens Traveling Overseas Launched

(Mar. 18, 2021) On March 8, 2021, China launched a digital vaccination certificate for its citizens, named the International Travel Health Certificate, to “facilitate safe and orderly cross-border travel,” according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on the same day.

The certificate shows details about the holder’s current COVID-19 vaccination status, as well as nucleic acid test and IgM antibody test results, including the dates of receiving the vaccine and tests and the manufacturer and type of the vaccine received. A sample certificate published with the MFA statement indicates that these data will be provided by the National Health Commission.

According to the MFA statement, the holder’s personal information is encrypted in a QR code, which can be verified and read by authorities overseas as evidence of a person’s health status. The certificate can be used in the digital form or printed out and used in paper form. The MFA has said that China is discussing with other countries about mutual recognition of such certificates.

The International Travel Health Certificate is available through a WeChat mini app named “health code app (international version).” This is the same app China has asked its overseas citizens to use since April 2020 to obtain the green health code to board flights returning to China. Both Chinese citizens and noncitizen travelers flying to China are required to take an IgM antibody test in addition to the previously required nucleic acid test within 48 hours of boarding their flights. While Chinese citizens must submit the test results through the WeChat app to obtain the green health code, foreigners must also obtain a QR code, named the health declaration code, by uploading their test results to a designated website.

China banned most foreigners from entering the country during the pandemic in an announcement issued by the MFA and the National Immigration Administration on March 26, 2020. Later, in September, the ban was lifted for a small group of foreigners holding valid Chinese residence permits for work, personal matters, and family reunification. On March 15, 2021, the MFA announced that, effective on the same day, the visa application requirements would be eased for foreigners who have been inoculated with Chinese-made vaccines.

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