By George Lake
Everyone who Adjusts Status in the United States or applies for an Immigrant Visa in any category at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate must have received the CDC mandated vaccines or have received an exemption. Not having the required vaccines will render intending immigrants inadmissible. They will not receive their Green Card or Immigrant Visa and not be allowed to immigrate to the United States.
From October 1st, 2021, all intending immigrants have been required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If they will not have the vaccine and are not exempt from the requirements to be vaccinated against COVID-19 they will not be able to obtain Legal Permanent Residence.
There are several medical and vaccine supply related exemptions from the vaccine requirement. These determinations are made on a medical basis – by the surgeon administering your medical examination and reviewed by the CDC.
There is only one non-medical or supply related exemption to the vaccine requirement. If being vaccinated is contrary to your religious beliefs or moral convictions then you may apply for a waiver to the vaccine requirement.
Waivers to the vaccine requirement for immigration purposesallow applicants to utilize their First Amendment rights to free speech and religion. That being said, the immigration services have developed a three-prong test to determine whether the First Amendment applies to the applicant’s beliefs or not:
- The applicant must be opposed to all vaccination in any form
- The applicant’s objections must be based on religious beliefs or moral convictions
- The applicant’s religious belief of moral conviction must be sincere.
Vaccine waivers can be submitted at three different stages depending on the process you are going through. If you are adjusting status in the United States the waiver can either be filed initially with the I-485 and I-693 or when USCIS requests the medical exam be submitted at a later date in the process. For those consular processing outside of the United States the vaccine waiver can be submitted after the visa interview.
Vaccine waivers must consist of at least two parts but we often submit additional evidence to bolster a case. The Form I-601 and sworn statement – a letter explaining the applicant’s moral belief about vaccines – are always submitted. We often prepare affidavits for people who know the applicant who can attest to knowing that the applicant holds sincere moral beliefs against vaccines. If appropriate, we also include other evidence such as vaccine record (if it shows no vaccines having been administered or no vaccines being administered since the applicant was an infant) or evidence to show that the applicant has suffered due to maintaining their moral beliefs against vaccines.
What religion should I practice to receive a vaccine waiver?
Often those who practice organized religion have passages from their holy scriptures which they can point to help show their sincere moral beliefs. However, applicant’s do not need to be religious at all and we have had a lot of success helping many different kinds of secular moral belief. So long as the belief is sincere and not based on ‘scientific’ beliefs such as: side effects of vaccines, vaccine efficacy and disliking particular vaccines rather than having a sincere moral belief against vaccines of all kinds. If you have a belief against vaccines, feel free to schedule a call with Blue Lake Law to discuss how best to present your beliefs to increase your chances for a successful vaccine waiver.
What vaccines are required to receive Legal Permanent Residence?
As of October 1st, 2021 the following vaccines are mandated for all those wishing to Adjust Status or obtain an Immigrant Visa unless exempt:
- Tetanus and diphtheria
- Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Meningococcal disease
- Pneumococcal disease
- Seasonal influenza
What will happen if I refuse to take a (COVID-19) vaccine, either before or during the medical examination?
If an applicant refuses one or more doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine that is considered medically appropriate and available to the applicant they will be found inadmissible to the United States and will not receive their Immigrant Visa or Green Card.
The only non-medical or supply related exemption is for those who can show vaccination would be contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
I was vaccinated as a child but have since changed my religious beliefs and/or moral convictions, can I obtain an exemption?
The regulations state that those whose religious beliefs or moral convictions have changed substantially since vaccines were administered may both apply for and could potentially be approved to be exempt from the vaccine requirement.
I have received vaccinations in the past but I do not wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19, can I still immigrate?
If you do not wish to receive a particular vaccination but vaccination in general is not against your religious beliefs or moral convictions then you cannot get an exemption to the vaccine requirement.
For example, if you strongly disagree with the COVID-19 vaccine and this belief is based on the science behind the vaccine, testing of the vaccine etc then you will not qualify for the exemption. If you were vaccinated in the past but the COVID-19 pandemic has severely altered your religious beliefs or (more likely) your moral convictions then are be able to apply and may qualify for an exemption.
How old must I be to be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19?
The CDC state that every immigrant applicant over the age of six months should be vaccinated against COVID-19 if the appropriate vaccines are available in the country in which the applicant resides. Physicians have been advised by the CDC to remain informed about changing recommendations which may include younger children in the future.
If the country in which the applicant resides has a country-specific lower-age limit for receiving COVID-19 vaccine then the physician may note that the vaccine is not able to be given due to the country-mandated age restriction.
What if a vaccine is not available in my country of residence?
If none of the approved COVID-19 vaccines are routinely available in the country where the applicant undertakes their medical examination, then they may be exempt from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement. If the supply of all approved COVID-19 vaccines in the country in which they reside is so severely limited that it would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive it then it may also be considered ‘not routinely available’.
How can an Immigration Attorney Assist you with a Vaccine Waiver?
Vaccine waivers can be difficult applications to put together. Applicants would want to highlight their sincere moral beliefs while not diluting their chances by arguing any possible scientific beliefs they hold.
A US immigration attorney can assist you with putting together a waiver – potentially coordinating it with other immigration applications and increase your chances of success.
Further, A US immigration attorney would be able to prepare the entire application in a way which will be accepted first time, not include any mistakes at the time of filing and be able to guide you throughout the process, anticipating questions and requested documents before they are formally required. In short, a US immigration attorney can save you time and delay.
Blue Lake Law has extensive experience in filing vaccine waivers and we would be happy to assist anyone who may be interested in this route to the United States. We can prepare the I-601, sworn statements and affidavits and prepare you for your interview as well as any other immigration applications and petitions which you might need to immigrate to the United States.
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