Effective October 1st COVID-19 Vaccine Will Be Required for Green Card Applicants  


In this blog post we share with you some breaking news for green card applicants applying for adjustment of status on Form I-485, as well as those applying for immigrant visas from abroad.

As part of the green card process, USCIS and the Department of State require applicants to undergo a medical examination with a doctor designated as a civil surgeon, to establish that the applicant is not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds.

According to new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control, beginning October 1, 2021, green card applicants will now be required to establish that they have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine series, in order to be deemed eligible for permanent residence. Following the release of this new guidance, COVID-19 was added to the list of vaccinations required of those seeking U.S. lawful permanent residence.

The new vaccine requirement will apply to routine medical examinations necessary for both adjustment of status applicants applying for green cards in the United States and immigrant visa applicants applying at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Who must take the COVID-19 vaccine?

All applicants (1) applying for I-485 adjustment of status (a green card) or (2) those applying for an immigrant visa abroad, who will receive their medical examination from a Civil Surgeon or Panel Physician on or after October 1, 2021, will be subject to this requirement and are encouraged to complete a COVID-19 vaccine series as soon  as possible.

Eligible applicants must complete the COVID-19  vaccine  series if  a  COVID-19  vaccine  listed  for  emergency  use  by  the World  Health  Organization  (WHO)  or  licensed  or  authorized  for  emergency  use  by  the  U.S. Food  and  Drug Administration  (FDA)  is  available  to  the  applicant  in  the  country  where  the  medical  examination  is  conducted.

How can I show that I have met the vaccine requirement?

Applicants must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination to the civil surgeon in person before completion of the medical examination.  The COVID-19 vaccination requirement will differ from previous requirements in that the entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) must be completed in addition to the other routinely required vaccines.

How long will the COVID-19 vaccine requirement be in place?

These COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be in place until the CDC determines the vaccine is no longer needed to prevent the importation and spread of COVID-19.

What if I am too young to take the vaccine, cannot take it for medical reasons, or do not have access to a COVID-19 vaccine?

Applicants who are too young  to  receive  the vaccine,  have  a  medical  contraindication  to  the  vaccine,  or  who  do  not  have  access  to  one  of  the  approved COVID-19  vaccines  in  their  state or country  will  not  be  required  to  receive  the  vaccine.  This will be most common for applicants applying for an immigrant visa from abroad who reside in a foreign country where a COVID-19 vaccine is not readily available.

What if I do not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

Individuals may qualify for a blanket waiver (see below) or may apply for an individual waiver from the vaccine requirement based  on  religious  or  moral  convictions  with U.S. Citizenship  and  Immigration  Services (USCIS).  See below for a list of the available COVID-19 vaccine waivers.

Circumstances in which Blanket Waivers are available for COVID-19 vaccinations:

  • Where it is not age-appropriate to receive the vaccination
    For COVID-19 vaccines, the age for which a particular vaccine can be administered differs by formulation. If the applicant is younger than the lowest age limit for the formulations in use (less than 12 years of age at the time of posting), this blanket waiver should be documented.
  • In cases where a contraindication exists – a condition that serves as a reason not to take a certain medical treatment due to the harm that it would cause the patient.

If an applicant has a contraindication or precaution to the COVID-19 vaccine formulation available, the “Contraindicated” reason should be documented, and the vaccine should not be administered. If the applicant has had a severe reaction to the first dose that is considered a contraindication to receiving a second dose, the first dose should be documented in addition to the blanket waiver.  Please refer to Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States for COVID-19 specific information about contraindications and precautions.

  • Where a vaccine is not routinely available
    If no COVID-19 vaccine is routinely available in the state where the Civil Surgeon practices, the “Not routinely available” reason should be documented.  If vaccine is available to the applicant but due to limited supply, it would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive their vaccination, then this situation would also be considered “Not routinely available.”

Other Circumstances

  • An applicant may request a waiver based on religious or moral convictions.
    If an applicant objects to vaccination based on religious or moral convictions, it must be documented that the applicant is requesting an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions. This is not a blanket waiver, and the applicant will have to submit a waiver request to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS will determine if this type of waiver is granted, not the civil surgeon or CDC.
  • Where an applicant refuses a COVID-19 vaccine series in part or entirety:
    If an applicant refuses one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine series that is medically appropriate for the applicant, the civil surgeon must document that the vaccine requirements are not complete, and that the applicant refuses vaccination. This applicant will be considered Class A inadmissible to the United States (will not receive a green card or immigrant visa).

Additional Requirements for Immigrant Visa Applicants Overseas

Additional protocols have also been put in place for foreign nationals applying for immigrant visas from abroad by way of Consular processing.

  • Immigrant Visa applicants who report symptoms of COVID-19 must be tested for infection at the time of scheduling or attending the medical examination. Exams will be postponed until applicants meet the recovery criteria to end isolation.
  • Testing of asymptomatic applicants aged 2 years or older may be required at the discretion of panel physicians to ensure public health safety at clinics
  • Immigrant visa applicants who have been in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 will be unable to clear their medical exam until 14 days of quarantine have been completed.
  • All air passengers coming to the United States, including applicants for refugee  or  immigrant status, will be required  to  show  a negative  result  of  viral  test  obtained  within 3  days  of departure, or documentation  of  recovery  from  COVID-19  in  the  past  3  months,  before  boarding  a  flight  to  the  United States.
  • COVID-19 vaccines administered  overseas  must  be  documented  on  the  DS-3025    If  the  COVID-19  vaccine is  a  two-dose  series,  both  doses  must  be  documented.  In  the  eMedical  system,  COVID-19  vaccinations  will  be documented  in  the  951  Vaccinations  form.

What will happen if I do not obtain a complete COVID-19 vaccine series on or after October 1st?

Applicants who attend their medical examination appointment on or after October 1st and do not provide evidence of a complete COVID-19 vaccine series will be inadmissible to the United States and will not receive a green card or immigrant visa, unless they are exempt under the blanket waiver categories, or have received an approved waiver from USCIS based on religious or moral convictions (applicants seeking such waiver must apply for a waiver with USCIS).

Want to know more? Check out our helpful links below for more information.

Helpful Links

Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.


Need more immigration updates? We have created a new facebook group to address the impact of the new executive order and other changing developments related to COVID-19. Follow us there.

For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.