Students from outside the EU are being forced to get tested every time they go out, even though they've been fully vaccinated. Photo: Pixabay

Students from outside the EU struggling to obtain a Covid pass

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International students from outside the EU get bogged down in red tape when they try to get hold of the Covid pass that is now mandatory in the Netherlands. So, when they go out, they have to get tested, even if they are fully vaccinated.

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Since last Saturday, the Covid pass is mandatory at pubs, theatres and concerts, which can be a problem for students who come from a country outside the EU. Some of them do not have a certificate that is valid in the Netherlands, thereby allowing them to get a QR code, even though they have been vaccinated in their native country. That's the case of students from the United Kingdom and the United States, but the exact number of students affected by this is not known.

Between two stools
The Fulbright Center in Amsterdam, which organises study exchanges with the United States, has seen a number of American students struggling with the QR codes in the Netherlands. “They are falling between two stools”, says programme manager Manon Kolsteren.

The route to a valid Dutch vaccination certificate is in her view long and complicated: first, the students have to be registered with a municipality and obtain a social security number (BSN in the Dutch acronym). Only then can they go to the GGD in Utrecht to get the foreign vaccination certificate converted into a valid Dutch one.

Those steps are taking a lot longer than usual because many official bodies have suffered delays as a result of the coronavirus crisis, explains Kolsteren.

Tests
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is advising people who are staying in the Netherlands for a long period iof time to get their foreign vaccination certificate converted at the GGD in Utrecht. But, spokesperson Annerijn Vink, that's simply not feasible for short stays “because the process takes too long”. In her view, it is easier for them to get tested every time they want to attend a venue, even though they have been vaccinated.

The ministry is still looking for a better solution. The best thing would be for countries with a different certificate to align themselves with the European system. “We have made very good progress with the United Kingdom in that regard.”

“We can search for another solution for countries that aren’t amenable to aligning themselves with our system”, says Vink. But QR codes will not be abandoned. “We cannot expect bar owners to decide based on paper certificates who they may or may not allow in.”

The Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO) hopes that a solution will be found soon. Prospective international students do not know anyone here yet. “That's why it’s very important that they can go out and meet people”, says association chair Lisanne de Roos. ISO would like to map the problem and calls on international students struggling with it to report the fact.

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