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EU Digital Covid Certificate for Expat Residents

Sample digital passport
Digital Covid Certificates have been a challenge foreign residents of Greece. Credit: lucas  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate which went live on Tuesday, is unfortunately inaccessible to legal foreign residents in Greece.

Hundreds of foreigners who have Greek residency permits have complained across social media groups that they are getting bounced from the site or they get an error message when they enter their residency permit card number. The platform is only accepting the Greek identification card number or a Greek passport number.

The EU certificate was proposed by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to the Commission to resume safe traveling this summer. It will be free of charge, secure and accessible to all. Available in digital format or on paper, it will be proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, tested negative, or recovered from an infection.

“Since May 10, 22 countries have already tested the gateway successfully,” according to the portal for the EU Digital Covid Certificate. “While the regulation will be applied from July 1, all Member States, which have passed the technical tests and are ready to issue and verify certificates, can now start using the system on a voluntary basis.”

Although testing may have been “successful,” expats in Greece are not able to access the certificate.

Rebecca Lieb, who earlier this year championed the movement for the Greek state to issue temporary AMKA numbers for legal foreign residents to access Covid-19 vaccines, has been tweeting relentlessly, making calls and sending emails to fix this apparent glitch in the system.

“Once again, Greece’s foreign residents have been left out of a critical COVID initiative,” Lieb told Greek Reporter.

“First, hundreds of thousands of us ineligible for AMKA could not get vaccinated until we rose up and protested, resulting in a wave of negative publicity in foreign media that finally resulted in government action to include us in the program. Now we’re excluded from getting the Digital Green Certificate that will facilitate travel in the EU,” she added.

According to Lieb, “Greece not only omitted us again but is doing so illegally. The COVID passport was Greece’s idea, and the country lobbied hard for it. EU guidelines clearly state that non-EU nationals have a right to this critical document.”

The EU portal states clearly that the “Digital Green Certificate should be issued to family members of EU citizens, regardless of their nationality. The Commission also adopted a complementary proposal to ensure that the Digital Green Certificate is also issued to non-EU nationals who reside in Member States or Schengen Associated States and to visitors who have the right to travel to other Member States.”

EU Certificate Inaccessible

According to the EU web page “Separate proposals to cover citizens and non-EU citizens are necessary for legal reasons; there is no difference in treatment of citizens and eligible non-EU citizens for the purpose of the certificates.”

In order to download the Green Digital Certificate in Greece, one of two numbers are required: either a Greek passport, or a police-issued Greek ID card carried by Greek citizens. Residency permits are issued by a different authority and the number on the card is longer and in a different form factor than citizens’ IDs. When the residency permit number is entered, the platform issues an error message.

Since Tuesday, when it became immediately clear to Lieb that the certificate would be impossible to download, she reached out to four individuals at the Ministry of Digital Governance, one of whom has been helpful in the past. As yet, she has not received a response.

Lieb, a former New Yorker who now lives permanently in the Pellion area, stated that one reason she actually chose to come to Greece permanently was because of easily accessed medical programs.

In the US, her medical coverage had become untenable for the sheer cost. “My individual out of pocket annual medical expenditure when I left NYC three years ago was $44k and rising every year,” Lieb stated.

The irony of now having to battle for not only access to the vaccine but the EU digital certificate as well, is not lost on Lieb. Vaccines and their certification are easy for Greeks to access but a struggle for expats who have been specifically invited to move to Greece.

After being wooed through retirement programs, many of these individuals, because of their age, are the most vulnerable.

“To say this is disappointing would be an understatement. Greece is aggressively lobbying foreigners to make their home here, either as retirees, digital nomads, Golden Visa investors or students. Yet clearly our health and safety are quite literally of no concern to the government,” Lieb told Greek Reporter.

“I believe we were omitted from the vaccine initiative by accident as the government scrambled to create a vaccine program,” she added. “But that Greece would forget us a second time – particularly in the wake of so much negative press – reflects a level of callousness that I know is making many expats reconsider the wisdom of making Greece their adopted home.”

Lieb added that although there are currently other means, if legal foreign residents must travel out of Greece, there is a cost. Without the certificate, some countries across the zone require a 10-to-14 day quarantine.

EU Certificate Issued at KEP

The offices of the Ministry of Digital Governance responded that if the platform cannot be accessed on line, foreigners with residency permits should go to their local KEP offices, Citizen’s Services, with their identification and documentation of vaccination.

However, KEP offices are still catching up, as they did with the issuance of the temporary AMKA numbers. Until a directive is ordered, those with residence permits will be ping-ponged from place to place within the system.

Receiving the temporary AMKA number is still troublesome for foreign legal residents. And for those who do manage, roadblocks surface further along in the process. Some individuals, who managed to get the temporary AMKA number and become vaccinated, still can’t access the Greek platform to download their certificate.

Since Thursday’s publication of this article Greek Reporter reader Robert Sokolove reported that “I managed to get my certificate. I found that the system didn’t like Latin characters when I typed in my residence card number. When I switched to Greek characters I was able to print my certificate.”

Another reader commented that they had no trouble having their temporary AMKA number and the certificate with no trouble by using the KEP services and their accountant.  This does not negate the fact that the process was not available online, digitally, without requiring in person appearances.

Lieb also followed up that she finally gained access to the certificate digitally Thursday night. She stated that the ministry “implemented a semi-fix! I was just able to get my Digital Green Certificate by attesting online that my information is true even though my ID number didn’t match their records. However my husband gets the same “there’s a problem with your AMKA” message he got trying to download the Greek certificate.”

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