COVID-19 Vaccine Required to Immigrate to the United States
On October 1, 2021, immigrants to the US will be required to supply evidence of vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of immigrant visa issuance or approval of an adjustment of status application.
Medical grounds of inadmissibility date back to the Immigration Act of 1891, which barred entry to “Persons suffering from a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease.” Vaccination became a requirement to immigrate to the United States in 1966. Congress passed legislation requiring an immigrant to receive vaccination for any vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices. Historically, the medical examination of arriving immigrants was conducted by the US Public Health Service at the port of entry such as Ellis Island.
Today, this task is delegated to qualified private physicians. In the United States, a U.S. Civil Surgeon examines immigrants. Abroad, the US Embassies examine and empanels local physicians to conduct this exam. This afternoon, the Advisory Committee added COVID-19 to the list of vaccine-preventable diseases. The CDC revised the Technical Instruction for Civil Surgeons and embassy panel physicians adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccines to immigrate to the United States.
Individuals with a pending adjustment of status application and included a medical exam with their application should expect to receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS requesting a new medical exam. This RFE will request applicants to return to a Civil Surgeon’s office with written evidence of vaccination and return with confirmation that the applicant has been vaccinated against COVID-19. It is unclear if applicants will be allowed to submit only a revised vaccine supplement indicating immunization against COVID-19 or if they will be required to submit a whole new medical exam.
Fully immunized adjustment applicants who have not submitted a medical exam should take their vaccine records to the Civil Surgeon’s office for the medical exam. The Civil Surgeon will record administration of the COVID-19 vaccination on the medical exam form supplied to USCIS. The CDC has instructed Civil Surgeons not to conduct or accept laboratory confirmation of immunity to COVID-19 or self-reported vaccine administration without written documentation.
Immigrant visa applicants living in countries where the vaccine is readily available should receive the vaccine and take records of vaccine administration to the panel physician’s office for inclusion on the medical exam given to the embassy or consulate. Civil Surgeons and embassy panel physicians may use a blanket waiver for the COVID-19 vaccine requirement (or any other vaccine) if the applicant lives in a location where the vaccine is not available, or administration of the vaccine is not medically appropriate.
Unvaccinated immigrants that do not qualify for a blanket waiver and have religious and/or moral objection to receiving a vaccine may request a waiver of the vaccination requirement. These waivers are adjudicated by USCIS on a case-by-case basis.