NI Direct Covid Certificate

2021 has also been quite the year. Thankfully we’ve been busier than usual and have so far avoided Covid infection, and the cats are also well, though staying in more due to the cold.

From 13th December you will need to have a Covid Certificate or “passport” in order to enter licensed premises or a slightly different one if you want to travel abroad.

As ever, scammers have seen an opportunity here, and we’ve heard of websites that look very like the official NI Direct site charging for what is a free service with no certificate at the end. As so many personal details and a photograph are needed in the application process this is a data goldmine so it’s no wonder that the thieves are at their work.

The proper, official NI Direct website is here:

You’ll need to scroll down quite a way to find the green “Apply for a Covid Certificate” button.

Sadly the process is quite complex, and it is easy to get into difficulty with it. Initially you need an NI Direct account if you don’t already have one, this is the first stage in the application process.

You will need access to your email address and mobile phone (confirmation codes are sent to both when you enter the details into the NI Direct website) as well as photographic ID such as a driving licence, passport or Translink Senior Smart Pass. You will have to supply your full name, date of birth, address and postcode.You will need to create a password as well – don’t forget this as it is important.

We think a passport will need to be a UK one, but have no proof of this.

You will also need a means (we found it much easier to use a laptop with a camera, but that’s just us) to take and upload photographs of your ID and also to take a “selfie” to match the picture on your photographic ID in order to confirm your identity. There appears to be an automatic process to validate identity; this seems to work 50% of the time.

Photographs once uploaded are rejected for no discernible good reason, leading to other forms of ID being required (again these need to be photographed and uploaded). So far with clients we’ve used a credit card statement, rates bill and a mobile phone bill in conjunction with other proofs.

These details are then entered into a manual verification system which can take anything from a few minutes to a day or two to be checked. No progress can be made until this is done.

Every time you access the website or mobile app (we’ll get to that) a confirmation code sent either by SMS or email is needed. If you choose the email option and use the app on your phone, make sure you have access to the associated email account as you can’t access the app to show your certificate and gain entry without entering a one time code every time you sign in to your NI Direct account. (As you can imagine, this quickly becomes tedious.)

We’ve helped quite a few people so far with this process, in all cases it has ranged from “difficult” to “a bureaucratic nightmare” just to create the account.

Once you eventually have your NI Direct account, you can apply for a Travel Certificate, which is needed even if you have no intention of going anywhere.There is no means at present to apply solely for a Domestic Certificate, at least not that we’ve found.

To get this you will need to supply your NHS number (not the number on an older medical card; but shown on hospital appointment letters or prescriptions), and know the dates of both of your Covid vaccinations and where they were given. If you’ve had the booster it isn’t queried.

A travel certificate is then issued. Once this is in place, we’ve found that its best to download the CovidCert NI app on to your phone or tablet (the phone is probably best as you’ll likely have it with you if you’re going out).

The app works on both Android or Apple phones, but certainly isn’t available on older Android models. (We don’t have an iPhone to test.) If it doesn’t show in the Play Store it isn’t available for your phone, and you need to print the Travel Certificate and take it, plus photo ID to wherever you plan to visit as you won’t be able to get a Domestic Certificate as outlined below.

When the app is in place, log in with your NI Direct ID (not forgetting the one time code). You will then have the option to add a Domestic Covid Certificate to the app. Your phone will want to take a selfie of you which it adds beside a QR code on the certificate which lives in the app under the Travel Certificate, and which will need to be scanned on entry to anywhere licensed.

You should now have an NI Direct account the CovidCert NI app on your phone, and both a Travel Certificate (with two QR codes) and a Domestic Certificate (with one QR code and a picture) available to show to anyone who wants to see it for the purpose of letting you in for a drink or a meal.

We’ve had nothing but trouble with the whole procedure, and don’t know how anyone older or with limited phone or computer knowledge (or – heaven forbid – no photographic ID) is meant to navigate this quagmire of a system.

With a lot of trial and error, and a bit of an insight into the NI Civil Service mind we have an idea how to get the thing to work, so if you are stuck or don’t fancy tackling it yourself we’d be happy to come and give you a hand.

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