Effective October 1st 2021, a full set of COVID-19 vaccines will be required for all immigrants to travel to the United States (United States).
This is a new requirement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for U.S. immigrant visa medical exams.
All U.S. immigrant visa applicants are required to pass a medical exam as part of the normal application process, as the U.S. State Department is currently working with the CDC to implement this requirement.
These technical instructions will remain in effect until the CDC determines that these orders are no longer necessary to prevent the importation and spread of COVID-19.
Applicants seeking immigrant or refugee status, as well as non-immigrants who must undergo a medical examination abroad, undergo a medical examination days or weeks before travel to the United States. Thus, testing negative for COVID-19 at the time of the medical assessment 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 against COVID-19 for applicants and communities in the United States.
The COVID-19 vaccination requirement will differ from previous requirements in that the entire series of vaccines (1 or 2 doses depending on the formulation) must be completed in addition to other commonly required vaccines.
“Although immunization schedules cannot be shortened, other elements of the medical examination may be scheduled at the discretion of the applicant and the designated physician,” the CDC said in the article. “The panel physician must confirm in person that applicants have received all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and, if applicants wish to complete the remaining components of the exam after being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, doctors at the panel must welcome them. “
Exemptions will be applied to COVID-19 vaccination if individuals are not age appropriate and 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 can also request a waiver based on religious or moral beliefs.
“If an applicant opposes vaccination on the basis of religious or moral beliefs, it must be documented that the applicant is requesting an individual exemption based on religious or moral beliefs. This is not a general waiver. The applicant will need to submit a waiver request to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS will determine whether this type of waiver is granted, not the designated physician or the CDC, ”the CDC explains in the article.
The new regulations also require applicants to be informed that all international air travelers to the United States aged 2 years or older must be tested within 3 days of flight and present the airline with documentation of a result. COVID-19 negative before boarding their flight. Applicants who have recovered from COVID-19 will not need to be retested to travel if they travel within 3 months of testing positive and can provide the appropriate documentation.
Lack of COVID-19 vaccination, exposure to COVID-19, or current COVID-19 infection would place an applicant in Class A, and therefore, ineligible in the United States.
Close contacts of people with lab-confirmed or probable COVID-19 are Class A for COVID-19 exposure until they have completed 14 days of quarantine.
“Candidates 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 retested 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 the criteria to end the isolation before completing the medical examination. All close contacts should be reported to the consular section and local health authorities in accordance with national guidelines. “
Applicants who have COVID-19 and COVID-19 contact may apply for a Class A waiver. Waivers will not be necessary once an applicant has completed the required isolation or quarantine period.
This COVID-19 vaccine series requirement does not apply to nonimmigrant visa (NIV) classes such as tourist or student visas.