The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that starting October 1, 2021, individuals applying for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card) must now obtain a Covid vaccine, if eligible, as part of the medical examination requirement.
By way of background, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), sets out the requirement that, in order to be found admissible to the United States as permanent residents, foreign nationals must demonstrate proof that they are vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases. The CDC has announced that the COVID-19 vaccine is included in the list of those required under this section of the INA.
Green card applicants must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series, and provide documentation of their vaccination to the civil surgeon before completing the required medical examination. The entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses) must be completed beforehand. Laboratory tests for COVID-19 immunity will not be accepted in lieu of the vaccine. Green card applicants will be required to receive the vaccine series regardless of evidence of immunity or COVID-19 infection. Lack of a COVID-19 vaccination would make an applicant Class A, Inadmissible, and as result ineligible for a green card.
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.
- 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 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS will determine if the waiver is granted.
- Tests for immunity: The CDC advises that lab tests for COVID-19 immunity are not to be conducted as part of the green card medical exam. Applicants must receive the vaccine regardless of evidence of immunity or prior COVID-19 infection.
Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State announcements regarding this development are forthcoming.