By: Angelita Chavez
Beginning on October 1, 2021, most green card and immigrant visa applicants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of their medical examination for lawful permanent residence. This Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order applies to adjustments of status and to those applying for immigrant visas at US consulates and embassies abroad. Applicants who refuse to take the full COVID-19 vaccine series without a waiver will be inadmissible to the United States.
Applicants must undergo a routine medical exam as part of the adjustment of status process for permanent residence. The CDC has added COVID-19 to its list of vaccinations required for admissibility to the US for a green card.
Once the new requirement takes effect, all applicants for US legal permanent residence will need to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination during their medical examination. Only COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States, or for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO), are allowed.
Applicants must receive a full vaccine series, which is either one or two doses depending on the formula. The applicant must follow their formula’s recommended vaccine schedule to be considered compliant.
If an applicant attends their medical exam unvaccinated, they may receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the doctor they meet with. However, the applicant’s medical exam is not complete until they have received the full COVID-19 vaccine series.
Applying for Immigrant Visas Abroad
Individuals applying for lawful permanent residence at US embassies and consulates abroad will also be subject to additional requirements:
- COVID-19 testing: If the applicant has symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of scheduling or attending their medical exam, they must be tested for COIVD-19 infection. Their medical exam will be postponed until they have met criteria for recovery. At the examining physician’s discretion, asymptomatic applicants ages two or older may be required to get a COVID-19 test.
- Close contact with people infected with COVID-19: Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must complete 14 days of quarantine before they can pass their medical exam.
As a reminder, all international travelers must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entering the United States.
There are some applicable blanket waivers which excuse applicants from COVID-19 vaccination:
- Age: Currently individuals 12+ qualify to take the vaccine. Therefore, anyone younger than 12 will receive a waiver.
- Contraindication: Applicants should refer to CDC documentation for information regarding contraindications and precautions. Generally, if the applicant has a contraindication or a precaution which shows that COVID-19 vaccination would be unsafe or risky for them, they should document this reason and not get the vaccine.
- Availability: “Not routinely available” can be a documented reason for a waiver if the vaccine is unavailable or in short supply in the region where the examining Civil Surgeon practices.
- Religion/Morality: An applicant may request a waiver for religious or moral reasons by filing a request with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS, and not the civil surgeon or the CDC, determines whether a waiver is granted or denied.
If an applicant refuses to take the complete vaccine series and does not have a valid waiver, their Immigrant visa or application will be denied. The applicant will be classified as inadmissible to the United States.
Applicants are responsible for submitting documentation that they received the COVID-19 vaccine series. Accepted forms of documentation include:
- The official vaccination record, or
- A copy of the medical chart with entries made by a physician.
Green card applicants who attend their medical exam without proof of COVID-19 vaccination will likely experience delays, unless they qualify for a waiver.
USCIS and CDC requirements may change as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop. The Chugh, LLP immigration team will monitor regulations and provide relevant updates as they become available. Contact your trusted immigration professional for case-specific questions.
 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).