COVID-19 Vaccine and U.S. Immigration

Gloved hand holding a small vile with the words "Vaccine Covid-19" on it next to text floating in air that reads "Covid-19 Vaccine and Immigration"

Vaccines for Immigration

Effective October 1, 2021, applicants for immigrant visas or adjustment of status must submit COVID-19 vaccination records as part of the immigration medical examination.[1] This examination is required because each applicant must show that they are not inadmissible for medical reasons.[2] The COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to any Form I-693 signed by a civil surgeon on or after October 1, 2021.[3] Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine series consists of one or two doses, depending on the formulation.[4] Thus, applicants should provide documentation of having complied with the vaccine series before completing the immigration USCIS medical examination.[5]

Do I Have to Have a Covid Vaccine for USCIS Medical Exam?

There are, of course, exemptions and waivers for virtually all required immigration vaccinations, including COVID-19. Notably, the waivers available for the COVID-19 vaccination are broader than those available for most immigration-required vaccines. For example, the civil surgeon or medical officer may issue a “blanket waiver” for the COVID-19 vaccination requirement if it “is not age appropriate,” “it is not routinely available in the state where the civil surgeon practices,” or “it is in limited in supply and would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive the vaccination.”[6] Additionally, the more commonly available waivers are also available for the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. For example, the civil surgeon or medical officer may issue a blanket waiver if it is not “medically appropriate.”[7] A blanket waiver may be issued without the applicant needing to formally solicit a waiver of inadmissibility on Form I-601.

Additional Vaccine for Immigration Waivers

Finally, applicants who cannot obtain one of the foregoing blanket waivers may formally apply for a waiver of inadmissibility on Form I-601 if the vaccination is “contrary to [their] religious beliefs or moral convictions.”[8] Applicants relying on this formal waiver of inadmissibility should be prepared to establish not only that their religious beliefs or moral convictions are genuine, but also that those beliefs in fact prohibit them from obtaining the necessary vaccines. This basis for a waiver should be buttressed by substantial evidence because the government tends to closely scrutinize these claims. Moreover, this basis for waiver will take more time to process than a blanket waiver, so applicants should prepare to wait longer for their immigrant visas or green cards. Given the increasing processing times for many types of applications and waivers these days, these wait times may be substantial.

If you are interested in soliciting a blanket waiver or a formal waiver to avoid the COVID-19 vaccination requirement—or any other immigration vaccination requirement—please contact Iyer, PLLC, at (832) 403–3333 to schedule a preliminary consultation with an experienced attorney.

 

[1] USCIS PA–2021–20 at 1.

[2] INA § 212(a)(1)(A)(ii).

[3] USCIS PA–2021–20 at 1.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] INA § 212(g)(2)(B), (a)(1)(B).

[8] INA § 212(g)(2)(C), (a)(1)(B).

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