The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that, effective Oct. 1, the COVID-19 vaccine is included in the list of vaccines required for applicants to obtain permanent residence and refugee status. Those applying from within the US must show proof of vaccination during medical exam.
The vaccination requirement dictates that the designated civil surgeon who performs the medical examination required for the approval of permanent residence must confirm by reviewing original documentation that the applicant received all doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Furthermore, CDC has required that if applicants have been only partially vaccinated and wish to complete the remaining portions of the medical exam upon being fully vaccinated at a later date, then the designated civil surgeons should accommodate them. CDC has indicated that acceptable evidence of COVID-19 vaccination would include a vaccination record (original or copy) or a copy of a medical chart with entries made by a physician or other appropriate medical personnel. If the COVID-19 vaccine is available to the designated civil surgeon at the time of conducting medical examinations, the civil surgeon may vaccinate applicants and document the doses. As new COVID-19 formulations are recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), they can be used to fulfill this requirement.
Importantly, green card applicants and refugees who refuse one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be found inadmissible to the United States. However, blanket waivers are available to 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. Additionally, individuals may apply for an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Reasons for exemption from this requirement:
- Age: Applicants who are too young to receive the vaccine (as of Aug. 2021, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for people older than 12, while Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) is approved for those 18 years or older).
- Contraindications: Those who have a medical condition that prevents them from receiving the vaccine.
- Not routinely available: Those who live in a state where there is a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
- Religious or moral convictions: Applicants can request a waiver based on religious or moral convictions. They will need to submit their waiver request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and it is up to USCIS whether or not to grant the waiver.
The above requirements will be in place until the CDC determines they are no longer needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition, all air passengers coming to the United States, including applicants for refugee or immigrant status, are required to show a negative result of viral test obtained within three days of departure.
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