On August 24, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added the COVID-19 Vaccine to the list of required immunizations for U.S. residency and Immigrant Visa applicants.
As a result, beginning October 1, 2021, green card applicants (applying for residency, form I-485) and Immigrant Visa applicants processing through U.S. Consulates abroad, will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
For background, as part of the immigration residency process, applicants are required to undergo a medical examination, testing and to receive age-appropriate vaccinations for a variety of preventable diseases before obtaining U.S. residency.
Who is required to have the COVID-19 vaccine under the new policy?
All immigrants applying for adjustment of status inside the U.S. (a green card) AND all immigrants abroad applying for an immigrant visa through the U.S. Consulate.
What is the procedure to have the COVID-19 vaccine administered?
Unlike current vaccines which are administered during the required immigration medical exam, under the new COVID-19 requirement, immigrants age 12 yrs or older must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) and provide documentary proof to the USCIS/State Department authorized doctor before completion of the medical examination.
To qualify, COVID-19 vaccines must be recognized for use by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which are currently: Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), or the World Health Organization (WHO) in the country where the medical examination is conducted. COVID-19 vaccines administered overseas must be documented on the DS-3025 and for countries with the eMedical system, on form 951.
What about immigrants who do not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine?
Immigrants who do not want to take the COVID-19 based upon religious or moral convictions may apply for a waiver from the vaccine requirement with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Waiver requests must include documentation that the applicant is requesting an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions and are not guaranteed to be approved. If a waiver is denied, and the immigrant refuses to complete the COVID-19 vaccine series, his or her case will be denied and he or she will no longer be eligible to obtain a green card or immigrant visa to the U.S.
Are other waivers available?
Blanket Waivers are available for COVID-19 vaccinations in cases where:
-the vaccine is not age-appropriate
-the immigrant has a preexisting medical condition that serves as a reason not to take a certain medical treatment due to the harm that it would cause the patient, as documented by a physician.
-the immigrant had a severe reaction to the first dose that is considered a contraindication, as documented by a physician.
-the immigrant is in a country where the vaccine is not routinely available
You can find out more about the new COVID-19 vaccination requirement for immigrants by visiting our website at www.Immigratetoday.com and clicking on the Immigration Newsletter link in the upper left hand corner or by visiting our enewsletter site at: www.americanimmigrationcentral.com
** Contributions to this Column are made by Attorney Caroly Pedersen, Esq. of the American Immigration Law Center