Effective October 1, 2021, by order of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USCIS and the U.S. Department of State will require individuals applying for permanent resident status to be vaccinated for COVID-19, with limited exceptions. Refugees are also covered by the order. Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination will be required along with the other vaccination requirements already in place in connection with green card applications.
Who is Impacted?
If the medical exam is completed before October 1, 2021, and the exam results are within the validity period (typically 2 years from completion with some exceptions), COVID-19 vaccination is not required.
Blanket waivers of the vaccination requirement are available if
- The vaccination is not age appropriate. This includes applicants younger than the lowest age limit for the approved COVID-19 vaccine formulations in use.
- The vaccination is medically contraindicated.
- The applicant does not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in their country.
In all instances, the request for exemption must be documented.
Applicants may also apply for an individual waiver of the vaccine requirement on religious or moral grounds. USCIS will make the determination as to whether an individual waiver will be granted. If the wavier is denied and the individual is not vaccinated, the individual will be deemed inadmissible, and ineligible for lawful permanent resident status.
Proof of Vaccination and Associated Requirements
Approved COVID-19 vaccines are those authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or those listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
Written documentation proving vaccination is required. This may include:
- An official vaccination record.
- A medical chart with physician entries pertaining to the vaccination.
- Appropriate medical personnel attestation.
An individual’s personal attestation that they have been vaccinated is not sufficient. Additionally, an individual may not be exempted from the vaccination requirement on the basis of testing that establishes immunity or recovery from prior COVID-19 infection.
Finally, keep in mind that proof of vaccination does not exempt international travelers from the requirement to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding an international flight to the U.S.