How to get an immigration and visa application processed without fulfilling the COVID-19 vaccination requirement?
Do not wish, cannot, or forbidden to take the COVID-19 Vaccine, and still want to immigrate to the United States, seek a Green Card, or get a work / investor Visa?
We have it all covered for you. If you wish to move to the United States or extend your immigration status, the next big thing on your mind would be about the COVID-19 Vaccination. However, do not worry about the processing of your application taking a bump, if you do not wish to take the COVID-19 Vaccine, or you cannot, or are forbidden to take the Vaccine.
While being influenced by the long existing COVID-19, taking the Vaccine is not your only shot to enter the United States. We have solutions to all your problems, while we cover the aspects of waiver of COVID-19 Vaccine for immigrants, who
- Are outside the United States and wish to immigrate with a Green Card or pursue a work visa / investor visa
- Are inside the United States and wish to update their status to a permanent resident with a Green Card
What is a Green Card?
A Green Card or a Permanent Resident document is one which shows that the holder is a lawful permanent resident of the United States. A Green Card holder is allowed to live and work permanently in the United States. One can fulfil the respective legal requirements to get permanent residence in the United States.
What is Work Visa?
Many aliens wish to come to the United States to work in temporary and permanent roles. With employment and busines offers, the employees and employers have certain formalities to fix, primary of which includes attaining a Work permit from the United States Department of Homeland Security.
A prospective employer commonly files a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, on your behalf, if you wish to work temporarily in the country. The Temporary (Non-immigrant) Workers webpage describes the main non-immigrant temporary worker classifications.
However, if you have the right combination of education and skills, coupled with the requisite work experience, you may be able to live and work permanently in the United States by seeking an employment-based immigrant visa. The Permanent Workers webpage describes the five employment-based immigrant visa categories.
What is Investor Visa?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the EB-5 program, in which the investors and their spouses, along with their unmarried children (under 21) are eligible to apply for a Green Card, if –
- They make necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States, and
- Plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers
How Has COVID-19 Impacted these Visas and other Grants?
All applicants for lawful permanent residency in the United States and those applying for work / investor visas are required to submit to a medical examination to ensure that they are not carrying any communicable diseases of public health significance, and that they have received all medically appropriate vaccinations to –
- Tetanus and
- Diphtheria Toxoids,
- Haemophilus influenzae type B,
- Hepatitis B,
- Any other vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices.
COVID-19 was added to the list, in furtherance to global developments.
With these developments and the ever-growing speed of the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus Disease, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services began a policy from October 01, 2021, which required all applicants subject to the immigration medical examination to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
After this process, the status of the applicant’s application is pending for an attested Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record by the civil surgeon, who completes the required examination and signs the said Form I-693.
Therefore, as per this new rule, immigrants are mandated to be fully vaccinated. However, a waiver is available to a certain set of individuals who do not want the vaccine or cannot obtain it for certain reasons.
What are the General Waivers you can be Granted, If you do not want the Vaccine or cannot Obtain it for Certain Reasons?
If you are an applicant who seeks an immigration visa from the United States consulate, or an adjustment of their residence status in the United States, who is found unlawfully inadmissible for not being vaccinated, you would be eligible for the following waivers –
- You have, by the date of the decision on the visa or adjustment application, received vaccination against the vaccine-preventable disease(s) for which they had previously failed to present documentation
- The civil surgeon certifies that such vaccination would not be medically appropriate for you
- The requirement of such a vaccination would be contrary to your religious beliefs or moral convictions
The first two of these waivers are the “blanket waivers” that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services grants, if a health professional indicates that you have received the required vaccinations or are unable to receive them for medical reasons.
If the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services grants blanket waivers, you do not have to file a form or pay a fee. However, the waiver on account of your religious or moral objection must be filed on the appropriate form (Form I-601), and accompanied by the correct fee.
What are the Blanket Waivers Granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in Relation to COVID-19?
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Policy Manual, an immigration officer may grant a blanket waiver for COVID-19 Vaccination to you, if the civil surgeon certifies that any vaccine is not medically appropriate for the following reasons –
- The vaccine is not age appropriate for you
- It is contraindicated due to your medical condition
- It is not routinely available where the civil surgeon practices, or
- Limited supply of the vaccine causes significant delay for you to receive the dose(s).
What are the Individual Waivers you can Apply for Based on your Religious Beliefs or Moral Convictions?
As per the immigration laws of the United States, if you are applying for an immigrant visa, or having your status updated to a permanent resident while in the United States, you are required to have taken vaccinations preventing diseases like Polio, Hepatitis-B, Mumps, Measles, COVID-19, and any other vaccine-preventable diseases as recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP).
Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 1952 of the United States provides for the inadmissibility of applicants, and states which individuals or class of individuals are specifically ineligible for visas or admission.
The law also focuses on health-related grounds, wherein, an applicant who seeks admission as an immigrant, or adjustment of their status to a permanent resident, and fails to present proof or documentation of having received vaccinations against vaccination preventable diseases (as mentioned above), would fall under the class of applicants that are ineligible for visas or admissions.
However, the same law also provides solutions for you. Section 212(g)(2) of the Act is considered an exception to the abovementioned vaccination mandate. It provides for conditions for admission of applicants that are inadmissible on health-related grounds, and states that the authority may waive the COVID-19 vaccination mandate of an applicant –
- Who receives vaccination against the vaccine preventable disease(s) for which they had failed to present proof or documentation of previous vaccination
- For whom a medical officer, a civil surgeon or panel physician certifies, according to such regulations as the Secretary of Health and Human Services may prescribe, that such vaccination would not be medically appropriate
- Under such circumstances as the appropriate authority provides by regulation, with respect to whom the requirement of such a vaccination would be contrary to the applicant’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Guidelines further provides that an applicant who is inadmissible under the health-related grounds of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and seeks a waiver of such inadmissibility, must demonstrate the following criteria for the waiver to be approved –
- You are opposed to vaccinations in any form
If you are seeking a waiver under this specific head, you would be required to demonstrate that you oppose vaccinations in all forms, and that you don’t “pick and choose” between the vaccinations.
Are worried about the fact that you have taken vaccination for certain diseases, but cannot take it for COVID-19, or if your religious beliefs or moral convictions have changed over the time, will this waiver be available to you?
In that case, let us tell you that this would not be an automatic ground for the denial of this waiver. Instead, the officer would consider the reasons provided for having received those vaccines.
For example, if your religious beliefs or moral convictions have changed substantially since the date the particular vaccinations were administered, or if the applicant is a child who may have already received certain vaccinations under the routine practices. These examples do not limit the officer’s authority to consider all credible circumstances and accompanying evidence.
- The objection is based on your religious belief or moral convictions (whether a member of a recognized religion)
This is a rather sensitive requirement, where on one hand your religious beliefs are to be balanced against the benefit to society as a whole. On the other hand, the relevant authority should be mindful that vaccinations offend certain persons’ religious beliefs.
- The religious belief or moral conviction as mentioned above, is sincere.
To protect only those beliefs that are held as a matter of conscience, you are required to demonstrate that you hold the belief sincerely, and in subjective good faith of an adherent.
Even if these beliefs accurately reflect your ultimate conclusions about vaccinations, they must stem from religious or moral convictions, and must not have been framed in terms of a particular belief so as to gain the legal remedy desired, such as this waiver.
While you may attribute your opposition to a particular religious belief or moral conviction that is inherently opposed to vaccinations, the focus of the waiver adjudication should be on whether that claimed belief or moral conviction is truly held, that is, whether it is applied consistently in your life.
With this, however, you need not be a member of a recognized religion or attend a specific house of worship.
(Note that the plain language of the statute refers to religious beliefs or moral convictions, not religious or moral establishments)
It is necessary to distinguish between strong religious beliefs or moral convictions and mere preference.
Religious beliefs or moral convictions are generally defined by their ability to cause an adherent to categorically disregard self-interest in favour of religious or moral tenets. You hold the burden of establishing a strong objection to vaccinations that is based on religious beliefs or moral convictions, as opposed to a mere preference against vaccinations.
When the waiver application is for a child, the child’s parent must satisfy these three requirements.
Do I Need a Lawyer to take care of my Waiver Application?
If you want to avoid any undesirable scenario and ensure on-time filing and proper form submission of your application, you should consider hiring an Immigration Attorney who can lead you through the registrations and filing process.
Having and experienced immigration attorney will raise your chances to get your petition approved and make the whole process less stressful.
Richard Herman and his team of immigration lawyers can be your right hand if you want to file for COVID-19 vaccination waivers for your visa or immigration applications.
Our team have extensive experience in providing services in the field of immigration law. We have helped numbers of clients from all around the globe to get immigrant and non-immigrant visas and bring their families to the United States.
Also, when we say that we speak your language, we really mean it- our dedicated team of lawyers speaks more than 12 different languages, so we can truly understand each client’s individual need. March is just around the corner, call us now and book your consultation.
Related Content About Covid-19 :
- USCIS Response to COVID-19
- COVID-19 Delays in Extension/Change of Status Filings
- COVID-19 Justifies Freezing Immigration?
- Current Guide to Immigration During Coronavirus/Covid-19 Crisis
- How Immigrants are Most Affected by COVID-19 Outbreak
- Impact of COVID-19 on US Immigration and Travel Restrictions