The CDC has announced that as of October 1, 2021, those applying for permanent residence in the US will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.This news comes following the US Food and Drug Administration(“FDA”) granting full approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19. While COVID-19 vaccines have been available for months, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the first to gain full FDA approval.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) requires that those seeking admittance to the US as a permanent resident must provide proof that they are vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases, including “vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices.” With the FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine the Advisory Committee accordingly recommended the vaccine and the CDC announced that it will be required under the INA.
What does this mean for EB-5 investors?
Currently this new guidance only applies to Investors inside the US filing an I-485 petition adjusting their status. For the time being, Investors still living outside the US and filing a DS-260 at their local US consulate will not be required to provide proof of vaccination.
Additionally, this guidance only applies to those approved to receive a green card. EB-5 investors who have just begun their application process won’t need to provide proof of vaccination on their I-526 petition. Investors with approved I-526 petitions applying to receive their green card will need to provide proof of vaccination or risk being denied.
How do EB-5 investors provide proof of vaccination?
As you might already know, approved EB-5 investors filing a I-485 petition to receive their green card are required to receive a medical examination with a civil surgeon. During this exam Investors submit proof they have received all required vaccines. In order to demonstrate proof of COVID-19 vaccination investors may provide: an official vaccination record (original or copy), or a medical chart indicating that they have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the event that an Investor has not received the COVID-19 vaccine prior to their exam, the civil surgeon can administer it during the exam and document the doses. Additionally, investors should note that it is not required that they specifically receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine; Any COVID-19 vaccine approved for the American public, such as the Johnson&Johnson and Moderna vaccines are also acceptable. Those who refuse one or more doses of the vaccine will be found inadmissible to the US.
While the COVID-19 vaccine is both widely available in the US, and scientifically proven as safe and effective, there are a handful of exemptions permitted by the CDC. Blanket waivers are available to those who are too young to receive the vaccine, those with a medical contradiction to the vaccine, or those who do not have access to the vaccine. Additionally, applicants can apply for an individual waiver on the ground of religious or moral convictions.