Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): certification scheme - information for businesses and event organisers

How the certification scheme (COVID passport) operates and what venues, businesses and event organisers need to do.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): certification scheme - information for businesses and event organisers
How to check customers’ status

How to check customers’ status

Vaccine status

Customers will show their COVID vaccine certificate on a smartphone, tablet or as a printed document.

Businesses and event organisers can:

  • check customer vaccine certificates using the NHS Scotland COVID Check app – you can get more information on how to do this at Guidance for venues | NHS Scotland COVID Check on the app website, or
  • visually inspect customer vaccine certificates to ensure that a person is fully vaccinated by checking the dates that primary course of COVID-19 vaccine was received/record of a COVID-19 booster

toolkit is available for those conducting checks.

Negative COVID-19 test result

A record of a  negative COVID-19 test result can be accepted as an alternative to evidence of vaccination.

The customer will show on entry a record of a negative lateral flow or PCR test result taken within the preceding 24 hours.

This record may take the form of an email from NHS COVID-19 Notification or a text message from NHS Result. Copy of the text message or email can be shown electronically or via printed paper copy. Examples of these are available in the toolkit.

Businesses should not accept either a physical test, or a photo of a test as a record of a negative test.

Test date: check that the test date (contained in the body of the text or email confirmation) is the same day or previous day of your event. There will be no time stamp specifying the time the test was taken. This may be different to the date that the text/email was received by the customer. See toolkit for examples.

Venue operators and event organisers may choose to cross-check the identity of the person displaying their record of a negative test result with other forms of identification. For example, name of person on the record with driving licence which many venues and event organisers already do before allowing entry.

Checking identification will be for the premises to decide as a condition of entry, just as it would be normally.

NHS Scotland COVID check app

The free NHS Scotland COVID Check app is a secure way to verify an individual's vaccine certificate. You can use the app to scan the 2D barcode (known as QR code) provided by your customer (paper or digital certificates). This will allow you to check that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 using a mobile device.

Guidance is available for businesses and event organisers which explains how to download and use the NHS Scotland COVID Check app.

The app does not store or transmit any personal data during the process.

Neither the app for customers or the COVID Check App will require a Wi-Fi connection to be available at the venue or event as it works in offline and online mode, both with  or without Wi-Fi. However, it does need to be set up in advance to work offline.

A toolkit has been published for businesses and event organisers which includes examples of evidence.

2D barcodes (QR codes)

COVID vaccine certificates have been produced with a range of embedded security features to help prevent fraud. They include a 2D barcode (also known as a QR code) which provides a unique reference that can be used to verify COVID vaccine certificates. Record of tests do not contain a QR code.

These QR codes:

  • contain information that is unique to the individual
  • provide additional security to minimise fraud
  • can only be scanned by recognised verifier apps – in Scotland, the COVID Check App is available for free download for businesses and event organisers

QR expiry dates

As part of the security of all certificates, the QR codes have an expiry date which are clearly displayed on vaccine certificates. Once expired, users will have to request a further update to the certificate, either via the app or paper certificate process. Expiry dates are used as part of the overall security of the system, and to help ensure that information is up to date.

Scottish residents who received one of their COVID vaccinations outside Scotland

Scottish residents who received one of their first COVID vaccinations outside Scotland can now upload their official proof of vaccination from that country to their Scottish vaccination record if they have received at least one vaccination dose in Scotland. This will update their record for the purposes of using the app and show they are fully vaccinated if they have received all of their vaccinations. Further information is available in the vaccine certification scheme guidance for customers and on the NHS Inform website

Visitors from outside Scotland

Visitors from the rest of the UK - and the broader Common Travel Area (including Republic of Ireland) - will be able to use their existing Covid Status apps with QR codes (and paper-based certificates) to gain entry to relevant venues in Scotland (using, for example, the NHS App or CovidCert NI).

If you have been vaccinated in an EU member state or Albania, Andorra, Switzerland, Faroe Islands, Israel, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Morocco , Monaco, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vatican you can get proof of vaccination through the European Digital COVID certificate. For the most up to date list of countries who are members of the EU DCC, see EU Digital COVID Certificate | European Commission (

Outside the UK and the EU, domestic certification rules for international visitors align with the current border rules – so visitors from other nations, such as USA, need to provide the same proof of vaccination status that is accepted for entry into the UK. A list of the approved COVID-19 vaccines and countries is available.

The letter and app on your mobile device will contain a QR code which you will be able to present to the venue who will carry out a visual check or scan the code with a verifier app to confirm the record is authentic.

The Check App does not treat international QR codes differently from Scottish QR codes. It will still display the green-tick, or a message if there is no valid certificate or the certificate has expired.

Residents from outside Scotland are able to access Lateral Flow Device test kits:

Dealing with exemptions

Some people do not need to show proof of vaccination/ evidence of a negative COVID-19 test to be permitted on the premises (also known as ‘exempt’), including:

  • people who are under 18
  • people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and  cannot be tested for medical reasons
  • people taking part (or have taken part) in a vaccine trial
  • employees and volunteers working at the venue or event
  • emergency services responders and relevant regulators in the course of their functions

You can accept the following evidence to confirm that someone is exempt from the scheme:

  • proof of age
  • an exemption certificate showing they are exempt from vaccine and testing
  • an exemption certificate showing the person was/is part of a clinical trial
  • evidence of employment at the venue or event

Businesses and event organisers should not refuse entry to those who are exempt provided the individual can provide acceptable evidence,

It is reasonable for businesses and event organisers to request evidence of exemption as part of the COVID Certification Scheme but you should not request any further information about the clinical reason behind the exemption.

Medical exemptions

It is exceptionally rare for somebody to be unable to be vaccinated and unable to be tested for medical reasons. Reasons might include those medical contraindications including severe allergic reaction to the range of vaccines , those receiving end of life care and those unable to take a test due to a particular severe medical condition or head trauma. There are a number of conditions which may render vaccination more difficult to attempt or complete – but it is important to be clear that for all but a very few vaccination offers hugely important protections and in the majority of cases, those who cannot be vaccinated will be able to take a test instead.

A secure paper exemption certificate will be sent to those who have been identified as medically exempt. The certificate contains a number of security features. The individual will  present this to gain entry to domestic venues within the scope of the COVID Certification Scheme . Venue operators and event organisers responsible for conducting inspections or checks should be familiar with the documentation required to allow access.

Those who are medically exempt cannot yet use the app but this should be available sometime in the future.

Clinical trials

All clinical trial participants have received a secure certificate indicating their trial status. The certificate allows the person named on it access to the setting. The certificate contains a barcode which cannot be scanned by businesses but this can be accepted as evidence the individual is exempt.

toolkit has been published for businesses and event organisers which includes examples of evidence.



First published: 28 Sep 2021 Last updated: 13 Jan 2022 -