Most green card applicants are required to submit a medical exam (Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record) to show that they are not inadmissible to the U.S. for health-related reasons. Generally, medical exams are used to determine if an applicant has a communicable disease, the required vaccinations, certain physical or mental disorders, and/or a drug addiction or abuse issue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently announced that, starting on October 1, 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine will be added to the list of vaccines required for applicants to obtain permanent residence and refugee status. This requirement will be implemented for immigrant visa applicants applying through the Department of State (DOS) and adjustment of status applicants applying through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Today, USCIS has issued a policy guidance stating that they will add the COVID-19 vaccine to the medical exam requirement as directed by the CDC. The Department of State is expected to provide further information on the implementation of this requirement soon.
If an applicant has already been vaccinated against COVID-19, they will need to provide proof of their vaccination to the civil surgeon or panel physician. If an applicant has not yet been vaccinated, they will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccination during their medical exam, if it is available.
In order to comply with the CDC requirements, the applicant will need to receive the complete vaccine series. However, depending on which vaccine the applicant receives, this may delay the completion of their medical exam. This is because certain COVID-19 vaccines require 1 dose, while others require 2 doses to complete the vaccine series. Therefore, applicants should account for this delay when considering when to get their medical exam.
While the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for most applicants, there are certain enumerated exceptions available.
If the vaccine is not “Medically Appropriate” for an applicant, they will be granted a Blanket Waiver. Blanket Waivers are typically granted when:
- vaccinations are not required based on the applicant’s age; or
- vaccinations are contraindicated, meaning that the vaccine may be harmful to the applicant; or
- vaccinations are in limited supply in a state or country; or
- vaccinations are not routinely available and would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive the vaccination.
Blanket Waivers on account of a medical contraindication are common for the immuno-compromised, pregnant women, those with severe allergic reactions, and those who are likely to suffer a life-threatening problem if the vaccine is administered.
Religious or Moral Conviction Waiver:
If an applicant objects to receiving one of the vaccines on account of religious or moral convictions, they may apply for a waiver. To do so, the applicant will have to submit a waiver request on Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, which currently requires a filing fee of $930.00. Along with the Form I-601, the applicant will need to demonstrate that (1) they are opposed to vaccinations in any form; (2) their objection is based on religious beliefs or moral convictions; and (3) their belief or conviction is sincere. If the applicant has already received certain vaccinations but is now opposed to other vaccines, the waiver will not be automatically denied; however, the officer will consider the applicant’s reasons for refusing certain vaccinations but not others.
It is unclear how long the COVID-19 vaccine(s) will be required; however, green card applicants should seek legal guidance and prepare for the implementation of the new COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Regardless of the complexity of your immigration situation, we, at Wilner and O’Reilly, can help you determine the best course of action for your unique circumstances. For individualized advice on your immigration matter, please feel free to contact our experienced professionals at Wilner and O’Reilly. We offer free telephonic and video consultations at our offices in Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, and San Francisco, California; Salt Lake City and Orem, Utah; and Boise, Idaho.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Juliana Ramirez is an immigration attorney at Wilner & O’Reilly. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her Juris Doctorate from Southwestern Law School, where she graduated in the top 30% of her class. Mrs. Ramirez is admitted to the California State Bar. Mrs. Ramirez has dedicated her legal career to the practice of immigration law. She has extensive experience assisting clients with both employment-based and family-based immigration solutions. Also, as the daughter of an immigrant, she takes great pride in providing clients with tailor-made solutions to their individual situations and counseling them through the immigration process.
Richard M. Wilner is a founding member of Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC, and is Board Certified by the State Bar of California as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He is admitted to practice law in the State of California and before the U.S. District Courts for the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California, the Northern District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.Mr. Wilner has received the coveted Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, the highest legal and ethical rating that one can receive from one’s peers in the legal community. Similarly, he has been awarded the title of Super Lawyer from 2007 to the present. He is best known for his work in advising Fortune 500 companies, middle and small market businesses, entrepreneurs and foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, and sciences in the complex area of U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law.