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How the COVID-19 Vaccine Affects Your Employer-Driven Green Card Process

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

From collecting numerous evidentiary documents to filling out multiple complex and confusing forms, the employer-driven green card process requires employers to jump through many hoops to obtain green cards for their employees.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way organizations and companies conduct business and carry out traditional functions.

The manner in which the U.S. federal government regulates the immigration process is no exception.

On October 1, 2021, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began requiring that International personnel filing I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This new DHS requirement applies to the employer-driven green card process.

In this post we will break down:

  • Why applicants must receive the vaccine

  • Situations of applicant exemption

  • Why employers should encourage applicants to comply with this new requirement

(We will also provide a free sample email that employers can send to international personnel to make them aware of this new change.)

Recent CDC Announcement and Exemptions to the COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that in order to be admissible to the U.S. as a permanent resident, a foreign national must provide proof that he or she is vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases. The CDC recently announced that COVID-19 is a vaccine-preventable disease and as such, applicants must provide proof that they have been vaccinated against it; a negative COVID test at the time of the medical exam is not sufficient.

Rare Situations of Applicant Exemption

DHS/USCIS may grant waivers on a very limited basis such as:

· the applicant is too young to receive the vaccine

· the applicant cannot receive the vaccine due to a pre-existing medical condition

· the vaccine is not widely available where the I-693 civil surgeon practices

· the vaccine is limited in supply and would cause extreme delay for the applicant

Applicants can also apply for individual waivers based on religious/moral grounds by submitting Form I-609, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.

Who Should Be Aware of These COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements in the Employer-Driven Green Card Process

In a very tight labor market, the employer-driven green card process is an essential part of retention strategy for U.S. employers.

In many cases, the employer-driven green card process takes years and involves significant time and financial commitment on behalf of the employer. Employers are deeply invested in the success of the green card process and should enable its success by sharing the new DHS COVID-19 vaccination requirement with their international personnel.

If employees are unaware of the requirement and file their adjustment of status I-485 applications without proof of COVID-19 vaccination, their employer-driven green card process will fail, unless the employee also applies for a waiver and DHS grants it, which we anticipate will be rare.

One other important point to communicate with international personnel is timeliness of effort to comply with the new vaccination requirement. It is certainly best to comply ahead of potential increased vaccination need.

Employers should work closely with their business immigration attorneys to make sure relevant vaccination information is properly recorded on the immigration medical exam and provided to DHS as part of the application.

Sample Employer Communication Regarding DHS COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

Don't let your employees' green card applications fail because they weren't adequately prepared ahead of time. Here is a sample communication you can easily share with your international personnel that are undergoing the employer-driven green card process in order to help them meet USCIS expectations:

"This is to let you know that as of October 1, 2021, DHS requires that all I-485 adjustment applicants provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination as part of their medical exam. In limited cases, waivers are available. More information is available at:”

Looking for more information about the employer-driven green card process from lawyers that understand it best? Get your questions answered & Learn More.

Hadley Bybee

Compliance and Training Specialist

Corporate Immigration Compliance Institute

NOT LEGAL ADVICE: This article is for educational purposes only, it is not legal advice that may be applicable to our situation

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is general information regarding law and policy that may be applicable to your particular HR issue or legal problem. Information provided in this blog, or any of our other public posts, does not create an attorney-client relationship. For specific advice you can rely upon, please contact your attorney.


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