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AMERICANS IN FRANCE

LATEST: How American visitors can access the French health pass

If you're planning a trip to France you will need the health pass to access venues including bars, cafés and tourist sites, but getting this if you were vaccinated outside the EU can be complicated. Here's how it works.

American airlines in Paris, France
Photo: Kenzo Tribaullard/AFP

Because the USA is not part of the EU digital travel pass, American vaccination certificates do not have QR codes that are compatible with the French health pass.

This means that visitors from the US need to obtain a European code before they can use the health pass, and the process for doing this has changed several times since the health pass was rolled out in August.

The French government has now shut the online portal for this, and introduced a new system.

Here’s how it works:

Who?

This applies to anyone who was vaccinated outside the EU. What passport you hold is largely irrelevant, although French citizens vaccinated in the USA  do have their own separate system.

In order to apply for the French code you must be

  • Over the age of 12
  • Fully vaccinated with either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Those vaccinated with Sinopharm or Sinovac can get a French code if they have had a single top-up dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.

Those vaccinated with Sputnik or any other vaccines not recognised by the WHO need two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna before they are accepted as fully vaccinated in France.

Why?

The health pass is now compulsory to access a wide range of venues and if you cannot prove your status as fully vaccinated you face having to either take a €22 Covid test every three days or avoid all bars, cafés, cinemas, tourist attractions, gyms, leisure centres and long-distance trains.

How?

The new system is a really a thrown-back to the very first system, only a little more formalised.

Previously tourists and visitors were told to email or apply online in advance of their trip to get their code, but now codes can only be issued by pharmacies.

This means that tourists will have to wait until they have arrived in the country and then sort out the necessary code, which is available on a walk-in basis from pharmacies.

Not all pharmacies offer this service, visitors will have to go to a participating pharmacy and, as the map below shows, there are not many of these and they are heavily concentrated on cities, especially Paris.

You can find an interactive version of the map HERE to find the closest pharmacy to you.

Once at the pharmacy, you show your original paper vaccination certificate and your passport and the pharmacist will give you a QR code. The code can then be scanned into the French TousAntiCovid app and this creates the health pass.

Find full details on how the health pass works HERE.

Charles de Gaulle airport

If you are coming to France by air and you are flying into Charles de Gaulle airport, there is a pharmacy at the airport that offers this service. 

It’s called Pharmacie Bonassoli, but it does not operate 24/7.

How much?

Previously the swapping service was free, but now pharmacists can charge up to a maximum fee of €36.

Why the change?

The process for tourists and visitors from outside the EU to get the necessary code has never really worked very well, and The Local has received dozens of emails from people who were unable to get the code, or who waited weeks for their application to be processed, leaving them without a pass on their holidays.

Most of the rollout of the health pass has gone very (some might say surprisingly) smoothly, but this areas has definitely been a weak spot.

The most recent system was an online application form, but many people reported that it took weeks to get their code so it was probably understaffed.

By moving the task back to pharmacies the government has at least provided a service that is accessible on a walk-in basis, and hopefully more pharmacies will sign up to the scheme in time.

What if you are still waiting?

If you already applied online for the code and are still waiting, the government says that existing applications will be processed.

However if it has not arrived by the time you get to France, you can also go to the pharmacy to get your code.

Other options

If this system doesn’t work out for you there are a couple of other options. 

The health pass also works with a negative Covid test, so you could take regular tests. Tests are available on a walk-in basis from virtually all pharmacies in France and for tourists cost €22 for an antigen test or €44 for a PCR test. Both types work with the health passport.

We’ve also received anecdotal reports of foreign vaccine certificates, especially the American CDC card, being accepted as proof of vaccination by staff at bars or cafés. However, this is not officially recognised.

French vocab

Pass sanitaire – health passport 

Attestation de vaccination étranger or Certificat de vaccination étranger  – Foreign (ie non-EU) vaccination certificate

Code QR (pronounced coo-aire) – QR code

Conversion de certificats de vaccination étrangers en format européen – Conversion of foreign vaccination certificates into a European format (this is the formal name for this service, so look out for pharmacies offering this)

Bonjour, pouvez-vous tranformer mon certificat de vaccination étranger en un QR code français pour le pass sanitaire ? – Hello, can you swap my foreign vaccination certificate for a French QR code for the health pass?

Member comments

  1. Is it possible to get a health passport if you have had Covid and took the monoclonal antibody treatment? We were told we have immunity for 8 months.

  2. Does anyone have experience with updating the Passe Sanitaire for the booster? I got the QR code back in September. I am over 65 and just got the booster in the US. I am going to France In December and my Passe Sanitaire will be invalidated on the 15th so I will have to update it with my US CDC card I guess.

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For members

TOURISM

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Amid accusations of racism at fancy seaside resorts and legal controversies surrounding US statesmen, we take a look at the law surrounding private beaches in France.

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Question: I read that all beaches in France are public property, but down here on the Riviera there are a lot of ‘private beaches’ – how do the rules actually work?

In France, everyone has the right to a dip in the ocean, though it might not seem that way when walking through certain areas.

There are 1,500 of these “private beaches” in France – the vast majority of them located on the Côte d’Azur.

They have become a source of controversy recently, after two private beaches in Juan-les-Pins were accused of racism and discrimination following an investigation and video circulated by French media Loopsider. The video (below) shows how a white couples receive different treatment than North African or Black couples.

So what are these ‘private beaches’ and are they even legal in France?

In reality, none of these beachfront hotels, resorts or beach operators actually own that land, as the sea and the beach are considered ‘public maritime’ and are therefore the domain of the French state.

This means that technically there are no private beaches in France, as no one is supposed to be allowed to own the beach, though there are some caveats to that rule.

Since 1986, the State has been able to grant ‘concessions’ to allow for parts of the beach to be temporarily rented. Thus, hotels, resorts or beach operators can request a temporary rental of the beach for a specific period of time – the maximum duration being twelve years, which is renewable. If the local town hall agrees, then the renter will pay a fee (typically between €15,000 and €100,000 per year). 

This might seem like a de facto way of allowing beaches to be privatised, but the few who manage to ‘rent the beach’ are still subject to some constraints. For instance, they are only allowed to occupy the beach for six months of the year (sometimes this can be extended up to eight months with the permission of the town hall, or twelve months in less common circumstances).

At the end of the season, they are required to dismantle their installations, so permanent private structures on the beach are therefore not allowed.

So you might see a waterfront resort, but they do not technically have ownership over the beach.

What about private deckchairs or sun beds next to the water? 

This is another rule that is not always perfectly respected. Legally, any organisation that rents a part of the beach is required to leave a strip of “significant width” along the sea.

This is usually about three to five metres from the high tide mark, where members or the public can walk along the water or bring down their own towels or deck chairs down to the beach.

If a ‘private beach’ has deck chairs or sun-loungers right up against the water, there is a good chance the renting organisation is not following the rules.

Beachfront property

As the public has the right to be able to access the beach, homeowners are not allowed to block passage and can even incur fines for doing so. 

The public must be able to pass through land to get to the beach, and cannot be blocked from the beach in front of a property.

Public access to the beach came into the spotlight due to a controversy surrounding a property of former American presidential candidate and statesman, John Kerry.

Kerry’s family owns a villa in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany, and has fought a three-decade legal battle to be able to block the coastal trail on the property, which by French law, should be accessible to the public. 

Despite the family siting potential ‘security threats’ should the beach front path be open to the public, local authorities backed plans to continue allowing public access in 2019.

What about building a waterfront property?

First, keep in mind that building in general in France is a heavily regulated process that requires planning permission.

You will not be able to build within 100 metres of the shoreline. If you buy a pre-existing coastal property, you will need to remember the three-metre rule discussed above and, as the Kerry family discovered, you are not allowed to block public access to the beach. 

For ‘coastal zones’ specifically, there are more strict regulations and most plots of land by the sea are listed as protected natural areas, and therefore are not allowed to be built on.

Can access to the beach ever be forbidden?

Yes, as per the Coastal Law of 1986, local authorities can forbid access to the beach for “security, national defence or environmental protection.” During the Covid lockdowns several local authorities banned access to beaches to avoid illicit partying.

There are also several rules about what you are allowed to do – and not to do – while visiting French beaches, and some of them might surprise you. 

READ MORE: The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

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