On October 1, 2021, USCIS will require immigrants to the USA to be vaccinated. And they must supply evidence of vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of immigrant visa issuance, and likewise, approval of an adjustment of status application.
Medical grounds of inadmissibility date back to the Immigration Act of 1891. This act consequently barred entry to “Persons suffering from a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease”. Therefore, 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 US Public Health Service at the port of entry such as Ellis Island conducted the medical examination of arriving immigrants.
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 impanels local physicians to conduct this exam. So, this afternoon, the Advisory Committee added COVID-19 to the list of vaccine-preventable diseases. As a result, the CDC revised the Technical Instruction for Civil Surgeons. and embassy panel physicians. In other words, the CDC added the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccines. Covid vaccination is now a requirement to immigrate to the United States.
Individuals with a pending adjustment of status application and included a medical exam with their application should further 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. The Civil Surgeon must return with confirmation that the applicant received the vaccine against COVID-19. It is unclear if the USCIS will allow applicants to submit only a revised vaccine supplement indicating immunization against COVID-19. Or if the USCIS will require them to submit a whole new medical exam. But, the fact remains, immigrants to the USA must be vaccinated as a requirement of their application.
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 the 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. They should also take records of vaccine administration to the panel physician’s office for inclusion on the medical exam. Applicants must then submit these records 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 the 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. USCIS adjudicated these wavers on a case-by-case basis.
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