The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a new requirement that will affect all green card applicants. Starting October 1, 2021, intended immigrants must receive full doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to immigrate to the U.S. This new requirement affects eligibility for permanent residence on health-related grounds.
COVID-19 has been added as a Class A medical condition that bars a person from the United States. Class A inadmissibility includes a communicable disease of public health significance per regulations under the Department of Health and Human Services; and a failure to present documentation of having received vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases.
As of October 1st, the COVID-19 vaccine will be among the vaccines required for applicants to obtain lawful permanent residence, either through the I-485 green card application with USCIS or through an Immigrant Visa application at the U.S. Embassy.
Section 212(a)(1)(A)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states applicants for permanent residence must present proof that they are vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases, which include mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and influenza type B and hepatitis B, and receive any other vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices.
In episode 12 of The Legal Immigrant, you will learn:
1) The ACIP has now recommended COVID-19 vaccination for the age-appropriate, general U.S. population. The CDC says this means the COVID-19 vaccination is now required to immigrate to the U.S.
2) The CDC does not recognize natural immunity. Its instructions state, “Laboratory tests for COVID-19 immunity must not be used for the civil surgeon exam. The applicant is required to receive the vaccine series regardless of evidence of immunity or prior COVID-19 infection.” The CDC asserts, “The duration of immunity due to natural infection is still being investigated and might not protect the applicant throughout the immigration process.”
3) What is an acceptable COVID-19 vaccination and proof of vaccination
- Approved COVID-19 vaccines are those authorized for use in the United States or those listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
- Personal attestation that you have been vaccinated is not enough.
- Showing immunity or recovery from a prior COVID-19 infection is not a permissible basis for a vaccination waiver.
Acceptable evidence of vaccination includes –
- An official vaccination record;
- A medical chart with physician entries pertaining to the vaccination, including dates you received the vaccine, name or manufacturer and lot number; or,
- Appropriate medical personnel attestation.
4) What is the COVID-19 vaccination requirement
The designated civil surgeon who performs the medical examination and completes the Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, must confirm the applicant received all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The I-693 is part of the green card application within the United States. A similar medical exam process is performed by a panel physician and required for Immigrant Visa applicants abroad.
5) What are the exemptions to the vaccination requirement
Blanket waiver –
- Applicant is not age appropriate, i.e. too young to receive the vaccine
- Applicant has medical contraindication to the vaccine
- Applicant does not have access to an approved COVID-19 vaccine, i.e. no COVID-19 vaccine is routinely available in the state where the civil surgeon practices
Individual waiver –
- Applicant refuses to take the vaccine on religious or moral conviction grounds
- USCIS – not the civil surgeon or CDC – decides whether to grant the individual waiver on religious or moral conviction grounds
6) If an applicant refuses one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine series and is not eligible for a waiver of this requirement, the civil surgeon will document the vaccine requirements as incomplete. On health-related grounds, the applicant will be deemed inadmissible for a Class A condition and will be found ineligible for permanent residence.
7) As of August 12, 2021, USCIS temporarily extended the validity period for Form I-693 from two years to now four years. For decisions on Form I-485 green card applications issued on or before September 30, 2021, USCIS may accept an otherwise valid Form I-693 if:
- The civil surgeon’s signature is dated no more than 60 days before the applicant filed the I-485; and
- No more than four years have passed since the date of the civil surgeon’s signature
8) If you have weighed the risks and benefits, and do not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine for U.S. immigration purposes, you will have to get a completed medical exam report before October 1st. Then you must file your I-485 application within 60 days.
9) Starting October 1, all green card applicants will have to take the vaccine unless they qualify for a waiver or exemption.
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If you prefer to read, click HERE for transcript of episode 12.
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The Legal Immigrant podcast and this article provide general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for your situation. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.