On August 24th, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new rules affecting new green card applicants. Markedly, effective October 1, the CDC will require the COVID-19 vaccine for applicants to obtain permanent residence and refugee status. Previously, due to the COVID-19 Delta variant outbreak, the CDC updated vaccination and mask guidance.

Background of Current Vaccination Requirements

In summary, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires that foreign nationals demonstrate proof of vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases. Green card applicants must provide this proof to be found “admissible to the United States as permanent residents.” Additionally, the INA states that required vaccines include those recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices. Given that, the CDC announced that COVID-19 vaccines should appear on the list of those immunizations required under the INA.

Overview of Changes to the Vaccination Policy

Due to the addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to the immunization requirements, the process of approving green card applicants changed. For instance, the civil surgeon performing the medical examination must review original documentation stating the applicant received the COVID-19 vaccine. Furthermore, the CDC indicated that evidence of COVID-19 vaccination includes a vaccination record or a copy of a medical chart.

If, however, green card applicants refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, they will be found inadmissible to the United States. Conversely, blanket waivers are available to applicants who are:

  • too young to receive the vaccine,
  • have a medical contraindication to the vaccine, or
  • who do not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Markedly, any applicants who fall under the above statements will not have to receive the vaccine.

Employer Takeaways

In conclusion, the CDC’s new requirements for applicants will stay in place until the spread of COVID-19 becomes controllable. Accordingly, as COVID-19 and its variants are a rapidly evolving topic, the CDC may release additional guidance in the future. Therefore, any employers who rely on hiring foreign workers should pay attention to changes in vaccination policy.