On August 17, 2021, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the United States will begin requiring applicants for lawful permanent residence (“green card applicants”) to be fully vaccinated. The requirement will apply both to adjustment of status applicants inside the United States and to immigrant visa processing (“consular processing”) applicants applying at U.S. embassies and consulates outside the United States.
This change will apply to any applicant completing their medical examination on or after October 1, 2021—even if the applicant filed their adjustment of status or immigrant visa application before that date; and to meet this new requirement, applicants will have to present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with a vaccine authorized for use in the United States (currently, Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Applicants for lawful permanent residence are already required to complete a Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record and to receive certain “routinely required” vaccinations in order to be granted lawful permanent residence and admitted to the United States. Thus, this latest announcement simply adds the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to the list of “routinely required” vaccinations, beginning October 1, 2021.
As with other vaccinations required as part of the permanent residence process, there are blanket waivers available—for instance, where the applicant is not old enough yet for the vaccine, or has a documented medical contraindication, or the vaccine is “not routinely available” in the location where the Civil Surgeon signing off on the Form I-693 practices. In addition, an applicant may also request a waiver based on religious or moral convictions. However, where a person refuses the vaccine series for which they are eligible in part or entirety and does not obtain a waiver from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they will be found inadmissible to the United States on medical grounds and will be denied their green card application.
There are also requirements in place for COVID testing for persons traveling to the United States from abroad, which do not affect eligibility for lawful permanent residence but that, if not met, could result in denied airline boarding and visa entry delays.
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