By Anayat Durrani
The US Food and Drug Administration has this week granted full approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for people 16 years of age and older. The approval has now cleared the way for companies, institutions and government entities, to mandate vaccinations.
The vaccine mandate is also being applied to the immigration process and could add another delay, depending upon vaccine status, to those applying for permanent residence through the EB-5 program.
“I am not sure if there will be any vaccine mandates for EB-5 applications,” says Fred Voigtmann, Law Office of Fred Voigtmann, P.C. “I have not heard that specific announcement from DHS or other government entity yet. I would think that such an issue would relate to all immigrant cases, not just EB-5.”
Green card applicants need to show Covid vaccine proof from Oct. 1
While there has not been any vaccine mandates specifically for EB-5 applications, beginning October 1, 2021, green card applicants must show proof they have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine series to be eligible for permanent residence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means green card applicants must be inoculated with a vaccine authorized for use in the United States or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
“The CDC added the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of other vaccines required for all green card applicants,” says Reza Rahbaran, EB-5 immigration attorney and managing attorney of Rahbaran & Associates. “This applies to all green card applicants whether they are filing for consular processing or adjustment of status.”
A negative COVID-19 test during an applicant’s physical is no longer applicable for the screening requirement. All eligible applicants are required to be fully vaccinated and show proof to a civil surgeon.
“Submitting/filing an I-526 immigrant petition is not an application for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status,” says Voigtmann. “Therefore, such a health-related ground of inadmissibility as COVID-19, should it be included under INA 212(a)(1)(A), would not be relevant in USCIS’ adjudication of the I-526 petition.”
EB-5 investors can file their applications before vaccination
Charles C. Foster, chairman at Foster LLP says applicants can still file their EB-5 application before they are vaccinated. They would be required to show proof of vaccination “at the point only when they apply for their immigrant visa based upon their approved I-526 petitions or when they apply for adjustment of status if in lawful status in the U.S.”
Acceptable evidence of COVID-19 vaccination, according to the CDC, includes a vaccination record or a copy of a medical chart filled out by a physician or other medical personnel. A civil surgeon may vaccinate applicants at the time of conducting the medical exam as well if a vaccine is available to a physician performing the exam. The full series of the vaccine must be given before the medical exam is completed and failure to do so may delay processing.
“A doctor on the approved list by the American consular posts should have access to the vaccines. As of now, they would need to be vaccinated before departure for the U.S.,” says Foster.
Partially vaccinated applicants that want to complete the remaining portion of the exam once they are fully vaccinated will be accommodated by civil surgeons. “Civil surgeons must document all acceptable vaccination history on the I-693 Form, which will become the applicant’s permanent vaccination record,” per the CDC.
As with all vaccines, blanket waivers are applicable. These include those who are too young to receive the vaccine, have a medical contraindication to the vaccine, do not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines or religious or moral convictions.