USCIS to Require COVID-19 Vaccine for Refugee and Immigrant Applicants
The CDC, together with USCIS, will require COVID-19 vaccinations for refugee and immigrant applicants starting on October 1, 2021. The Department of Health & Human Services issued an alert for physicians to note the designation of COVID-19 as a Class A Inadmissible Condition. The alert stated that the U.S. Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) has now recommended the vaccination for the general U.S. population and therefore it now meets the vaccination criteria for refugee or immigrant applicants.
The notice also advises:
- If a COVID-19 vaccine listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) or licensed or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is available to the applicant in the country where the medical examination is conducted, the eligible applicant must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series.
- Applicants who are too young to receive the vaccine, have a medical contraindication to the vaccine, or who do not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in their country will not be required to receive the vaccine.
- Individuals may apply for an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Question: I’ve already taken my medical exam and sent it to USCIS, but my I-485 is still pending. Will I have to get another exam?
The alert states that this policy goes into effect for individuals receiving their medical examinations from a Civil Surgeon or Panel Physician on or after October 1, 2021. Medical exams that are completed prior to this date are not required to demonstrate proof of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Question: I need to provide updated medicals but USCIS hasn’t issued an RFE yet or my priority date is not yet current. Should I get the vaccine?
Whether you are choosing to interfile your medicals or wait for an RFE, you may want to consider getting the vaccine so that both doses (if applicable) can be completed by the time your priority date is current or when USCIS requests medicals in an RFE. You should check with your healthcare provider before taking or refraining from taking any medical actions.
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USCIS Extends Flexibility for Responding to Agency Requests
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is extending the flexibility it announced on March 30, 2020, to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain:
- Requests for Evidence;
- Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
- Notices of Intent to Deny;
- Notices of Intent to Revoke;
- Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
- Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or
- Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
Read Challa Law Group’s update from the previous USCIS announcement.
Notice/Request/Decision Issuance Date:
This flexibility applies to the above documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision is between March 1 and Sept. 11, 2020, inclusive.
Response Due Date:
USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action. We will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before we take any action. USCIS states:
“We are adopting several measures to protect our workforce and community and to minimize the immigration consequences for those seeking immigration benefits during this time. USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow CDC guidance. Education and precautions are the strongest tools against COVID-19 infection.”
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Responses Accepted Within 60 Days of Deadlines
UPDATE on 3/30/2020: USCIS Clarifies & Expands Flexibility for RFE, NOID, NOIR, NOIT Responses
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that due to the ongoing effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency was “adopting measures to minimize the immigration consequences associated with responding to requests for evidence (RFEs) and notices of intent to deny (NOIDs) dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020.
Any responses to RFEs or NOIDs with deadlines between March 1 and May 1, 2020 that are submitted within 60 calendar days after the deadline, will be accepted for consideration by USCIS. The agency stated additional updates will be provided as the situation develops.
Over 200 organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s New York Chapter, have written to the the U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to request “policies and protocols to fully and effectively respond to the crisis currently being caused by COVID-19.” The letter states that “immigrants and the providers and advocates who help them to navigate these systems will suffer serious hardships that raise due process concerns.”
The letter has requested that courts be closed and deadlines extended. Some of the additional requests are below:
- Address “age-outs” caused by COVID-19
- Issue automatic work authorizations and renewals during the length of the pandemic
- Suspend the issuance of new RFEs and NOIDs until offices resume normal operations
- Waive requirements for original signatures and original photographs
USCIS recently announced that reproduced original signatures are acceptable for forms that typically require original “wet ink” signatures. We will keep you posted on additional updates to these requests to the respective agencies.
Visit our COVID-19 Resource Page for Employers & Foreign Workers to read about other critical immigration updates.