Wilfredo Lee / AP
People applying to immigrate to the United States will need to prove that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of a mandatory medical examination, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The new policy is effective October 1.
The requirement includes an exception for children too young to receive the vaccine, as well as people with health conditions who exclude them for the vaccine. It also describes a waiver process for people who refuse to be vaccinated for religious and other reasons.
The COVID-19 vaccine joins a list of well-established vaccines required by the United States, from hepatitis A to polio and chickenpox (chickenpox), according to a policy update released by USCIS.
“If the applicant has not received any of the vaccines listed and the vaccines are age-appropriate and medically appropriate, the applicant has a Class A disease and is inadmissible,” USCIS said. The agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month that because its advisory committee has recommended the COVID-19 vaccination for all Americans eligible to receive it, the vaccine should also be required for would-be immigrants. . The new policy stems from that announcement, USCIS said.
The new rule applies to potential permanent residents or anyone else who must undergo an immigration medical examination. The exams, which are performed by doctors that USCIS designates as civilian surgeons, can be done in the United States or overseas – but they won’t be considered complete without a document showing the COVID-19 vaccination, or an approved exception or waiver.
Anyone who “opposes vaccines on the basis of religious or moral belief” can apply for a waiver from USCIS, the agency said. But there’s also a caveat: Potential immigrants can’t choose which vaccines they reject.
“The applicant must demonstrate his opposition to vaccinations in all their forms, not just certain vaccinations,” according to the agency.
These waivers would be assessed by USCIS officers on an individual basis. But the agency could also issue blanket immunization waivers for certain groups of people – for example, if they are coming to the United States from a country where the vaccine is not widely available.
General waivers would require a recommendation from the CDC, USCIS said.