International students have difficulty getting COVID pass

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

photo Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

Since Saturday it has been mandatory to show a COVID pass if you want to go to a pub, theatre or concert in the Netherlands. This can be a problem for students who have been vaccinated in their native country outside the EU. They do not all have a certificate that is valid in the Netherlands, thereby allowing them to get a QR code.

These include students from the United Kingdom and the United States, but the exact number of students affected is not clear.

Between two stools

At the Fulbright Center in Amsterdam, which organises exchanges with the United States, they see American students in the Netherlands struggling with the QR codes. “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:

the students have to be registered with a municipality and obtain a BSN (citizen service) number; only then can they go to the GGD in Utrecht to get the foreign vaccination certificate converted into a valid Dutch one.

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


The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is advising people who are staying for a long period in the Netherlands to get their foreign vaccination certificate converted at the GGD in Utrecht. But for a short stay, says spokesperson Annerijn Vink, that is unworkable “because the process takes too long”. In her view it is more practical for them to get tested to gain entry, 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 look at another solution for countries that aren’t amenable to aligning themselves with our system”, says Vink. But in any event QR codes will not simply 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. “So it’s very important that they can go out and meet people”, says association chair Lisanne de Roos. The ISO is keen to map the problem and calls on international students who encounter it to report the fact.

Share this article