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.”
- 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.
- CDC Requirements for Immigrant Medical Examinations: COVID-19 Technical Instructions for Civil Surgeons
- COVID-19 Technical Instructions for Panel Physicians
- USCIS Announces Temporary Extension of Form I-693 Medical Examination Validity
- Form I-693 Medical Examination USCIS Webpage
- Youtube channel
Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.
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