The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends COVID-19 vaccinations for the age-appropriate, general US population. Consequently, immigration applicants to the US now require COVID-19 vaccinations. Therefore, applicants must be fully vaccinated, except in certain circumstances. Also, separate rules apply at US ports of entry.
Immigration Waivers for COVID-19 Vaccines
Immigration agencies require that immigration applicants have COVID-19 vaccinations. Blanket waivers apply under certain conditions. Other waivers are available for good cause.
Not Age Appropriate
A blanket waiver can be for an age restriction. A blanket waiver is available for applicants who are younger than the lowest age limit set by the US FDA or WHO for the approved COVID-19 vaccine formulations in use. At present, the WHO has only approved vaccines for people 18 years of age and older; however, the US FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children, and requires it for applicant children if it is available to them in the country of the exam. In other cases, certain countries require vaccinations only for those who are at least 65 years of age. Finally, applicants under 65 should document a blanket waiver.
Applicants should not have a COVID vaccine administered if they have a contraindication or precaution to the approved COVID-19 vaccine formulation available. The applicant should document the “Contraindicated” reason. Consequently, the applicant should document the first dose in addition to the blanket waiver if the applicant has a severe reaction to the first dose that creates a contraindication to receiving a second dose. Please refer to Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States or similar guidance for other vaccine formulations for information about contraindications and precautions.
Not Routinely Available
COVID-19 vaccinations are not required if no approved COVID-19 vaccines are routinely available in the country where the the appropriate US immigration medical exam is given, and are not expected to be available within 4 months. “Not routinely available” also applies where applicant has already been vaccinated with a non-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and regulations or laws in the country of exam prevent the applicant from being revaccinated with an approved formulation. In contrast, an applicant must get the vaccine even if it is costly or inconvenient.
There are also other exemptions to the COVID-19 requirement for purposes of the applicant’s immigration medical exam.
Religious or Moral Convictions
A waiver is possible if an applicant objects to vaccinations based on religious or moral convictions. This is an individual waiver application, not a blanket waiver. The applicant must submit a waiver request to USCIS for its determination. Many such applications fail.
Travel to the United States
With few exceptions, non-U.S. citizen travelers cannot currently enter the US unless fully vaccinated against the COVID virus. Temporary measures are in place to prevent travel, even for those with immigrant visas who have a vaccination waiver due to religious or moral beliefs.
In most cases, a foreigner who has an immigrant visa issued at a consulate abroad based on a vaccination waiver cannot enter the US without being fully vaccinated against COVID. By comparison, it should be possible for those who are already in the US to seek a COVID vaccination waiver.
Call for Assistance
Consider a licensed, professional immigration legal representative before proceeding. Immigration law is large and diverse, covering many types of immigration. Government agencies have become increasingly adversarial. It helps to have our team on your side to prevent avoidable and unnecessary delays, anticipate problems, and effectively navigate your matter toward successful completion. We provide a free initial consultation for those interested in possibly working with us on case processing, and we’re happy to answer your questions.