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CDC Requires COVID-19 Vaccination for Most Green Card Applicants Beginning October 1

Beginning October 1, 2021, green card applicants will be required to establish that they have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine series in order to be deemed eligible for permanent residence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The COVID-19 vaccine has been added to the existing list of vaccinations already required of green card applicants. 

This vaccine requirement will be included as part of the routine medical exam necessary for both adjustment of status applicants applying within the United States and immigrant visa applicants applying from abroad. 

Once the new requirement takes effect, green card applicants attending their medical exam will be required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with a vaccine authorized for use in the United States or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization. The most common form of proof is the paper vaccination record card issued by the CDC once the vaccination has been administered. Self-reports of vaccination will not be accepted without the proper written documentation. 

If the applicant is not fully vaccinated at the time of the medical exam, the U.S. civil surgeon or panel physician administering the exam is permitted to vaccinate the applicant. However, due to the two doses that are commonly required, special care will need to be taken in terms of timing to ensure there is not a delay in the processing of the medical exam. 

The new CDC policy includes guidance regarding waivers and testing for adjustment of status and immigrant visa applicants as follows:

  • Blanket waivers: Blanket waivers of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement will apply to applicants who are younger than the lowest age limit for available vaccines in their jurisdiction, as well as for those who can document a medical contraindication. Also, in certain circumstances, if the COVID-19 vaccine is not routinely available in the jurisdiction of the U.S. civil surgeon or panel physician performing the medical exam, the applicant may be permitted a blanket waiver.
  • Waiver based on religious or moral convictions: If an applicant objects to COVID-19 vaccination on religious or moral grounds, the applicant must submit a waiver request (Form I-601) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS will determine if the waiver is granted. 
  • Tests for immunity: Applicants must receive the vaccine regardless of evidence of immunity or prior COVID-19 infection. The CDC notes that this is because the duration of immunity due to natural infection is still being investigated and may not protect the applicant throughout the immigration process. 

There will also be additional protocols for foreign nationals applying for immigrant visas abroad:

  • Testing for COVID-19 Infection: Immigrant visa applicants must be tested for infection if they report symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of scheduling or attending their medical exam. The exam will be postponed until they have met the recovery criteria to end the required isolation period. Additionally, testing of asymptomatic applicants ages two and up may be required at the discretion of the panel physician in order to support the public health safety of the clinics. 
  • Close contact of persons with COVID-19 infection: Immigrant visa applicants in close contact with someone with COVID-19 will be unable to clear their medical exam until they complete 14 days of quarantine. 

COVID-19 has impacted many aspects of the U.S. immigration system. If you have questions on this new vaccination requirement or other COVID-19 related immigration questions, please reach out to Berardi Immigration Law to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!