Effective October 1st 2021, a completed COVID-19 vaccine series will be required for all immigrants to travel to the United states (U.S).
This is a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirement for U.S. immigrant visa medical examinations.
All U.S. immigrant visa applicants are required to complete a medical examination as part of the normal application process as the U.S. Department of State is currently working with the CDC to implement this requirement.
These Technical Instructions will remain in effect until the CDC determines these orders are no longer needed to prevent the importation and spread of COVID-19.
Applicants applying for immigrant or refugee status, as well as non-immigrants who are required to have an overseas medical examination, are medically screened days or weeks prior to travel to the U.S. Thus, a negative screening for COVID-19 at the time of the medical evaluation, does not guarantee that the applicant will not have COVID-19 at the time of immigration to the United States.
According to an article on cdc.gov, a combination of vaccination, strategic testing, and routine infection control practices will provide the best protection from COVID-19 for applicants and US communities.
The COVID-19 vaccination requirement will differ from previous requirements in that the entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) must be completed in addition to the other routinely required vaccines.
“Although the vaccine schedules cannot be shortened, other components of the medical examination can be scheduled at the discretion of the applicant and panel physician,” the CDC states in the article. “The panel physician must confirm in person documentation that the applicants received all doses of COVID-19 vaccine and, if applicants want to complete the remaining components of the exam after they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, panel physicians should accommodate them.”
Waivers will be applied to COVID-19 vaccination if persons are not age appropriate and if an applicant has a contraindication to the approved COVID-19 vaccine formulation available such as a severe reaction to the first dose or if the vaccine is not routinely available in the country.
An applicant may also request a waiver based on religious or moral convictions.
“If an applicant objects to vaccination based on religious or moral convictions, it must be documented that the applicant is requesting an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions. This is not a blanket waiver. The applicant will have to submit a waiver request to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS will determine if this type of waiver is granted, not the panel physician or CDC,” the CDC explains in the article.
The new regulations also require that applicants are informed that all international air travelers to the United States aged 2 years or older must be tested within 3 days of the flight and show documentation of a negative COVID-19 result to the airline before boarding their flight. Applicants who have recovered from COVID-19 will not need to be retested for travel if they travel within 3 months of their positive test and can provide appropriate documentation.
Lack of COVID-19 vaccination, exposure to COVID-19, or current COVID-19 infection would put an make an applicant Class A, and therefore, inadmissible to the United States.
Close contacts of persons with laboratory-confirmed or probable COVID-19 are Class A for COVID-19 exposure until they complete 14 days of quarantine.
“Applicants who are close contacts should be rescheduled and not complete their exam until 14 days of quarantine. The 14 days should begin after the person’s last exposure to the person with COVID-19 or, if exposure continues, when that person has recovered. If possible, the contact should be tested immediately and then tested again on day 12 of the quarantine period. The same tests described above (NAAT such as RT-PCR tests) should be used. If the applicant develops symptoms of COVID-19 during this time or tests positive, they must meet criteria to end isolation before completing the medical examination. All close contacts should be reported to the consular section and local health authorities according to national guidance.”
Applicants who have COVID-19 and COVID-19 contacts can apply for a Class A waiver. Waivers will not be needed after an applicant completes the required isolation or quarantine period.
This COVID-19 vaccine series requirement does not apply to non-immigrant visa (NIV) classes such as tourist or student visas.