Starting October 1st, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is adding COVID-19 to the list of diseases against which US immigrants must be vaccinated. The list also includes mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis A & B, varicella and others. The vaccine requirement is part of the standard medical exam requirement for new US immigrants. During the exam, applicants are required to show proof that they have received the required vaccines. If a green card applicant cannot show proof of having received the required vaccines, US law states that the vaccines must be administered during the medical exam. That rule is valid for both immigrants applying for permanent residency (green card) through a US consulate abroad and for those adjusting status while in the US. Applicants who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine or fail to get a waiver will be deemed inadmissible on health-related grounds.
CDC requires that the COVID-19 vaccine is from the list of vaccines approved in the US. That includes Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen. Other vaccines that are not approved for use in the US will not be accepted. That includes the European AstraZeneca shot, the Russian Sputnik 5 and all Chinese vaccines such as Sinovac and Sinopharm. An updated list of US authorized vaccines is available the CDC website.
The CDC can waive the vaccine requirement in certain cases:
- When the applicants are younger than the lowest age limit for available vaccines in their jurisdiction.
- The applicant can document that COVID-19 vaccine is not compatible with other underlaying medical condition(s) that her or she has.
- The applicant can request a waiver based on religious or moral convictions. The waiver request must be submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The CDC requirement for COVID-19 vaccines is in line with their current policy to require vaccines for diseases that have the potential to threaten the public health of the United States. The CDC can decide to add or remove vaccination requirements based on its evaluation of the threats posed to the public health by a certain disease and/or the effectiveness and safety of the available vaccines.
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