Unvaccinated People Are Banned From This as of Oct. 1, Homeland Security Says
You won't be able to do this soon without proof of vaccination.
More than a year and half into the COVID pandemic, health experts and officials continue to urge that the best way to end surges of new cases is by getting more people vaccinated, especially as highly transmissible variants, like Delta, continue to spread. In the U.S., President Joe Biden recently announced a new plan that includes vaccination requirements for many workers, including healthcare and federal employees. But that's just one way the U.S. government is taking measures to get people vaccinated; the latest move comes from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
On Sept. 14, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a branch of the DHS, announced that anyone applying for U.S. citizenship will soon need to be fully vaccinated against COVID. The new mandate will go into effect on Oct. 1, requiring that proof of vaccination be presented before a civil surgeon can complete the required immigration medical examination for an individual's application.
"We are updating our policy guidance in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Aug. 17, 2021 update to the Technical Instructions for Civil Surgeons," the USCIS said in a statement. According to the CDC's update, citizenship applicants are "medically screened well in advance of adjustment of status," so a negative COVID test at the time of medical evaluation would not guarantee that the applicant does not have COVID once their citizenship is granted.
"The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended COVID-19 vaccination for the age-appropriate, general U.S. population. Therefore, COVID-19 vaccination now meets the criteria for required vaccinations and is a requirement for applicants eligible for the vaccine," the CDC said. (Other required vaccinations include flu, tetanus, measles, and mumps shots.)
Applicants must complete the entire COVID-19 vaccination series, which is either one or two doses depending on which approved shot they get. In the U.S., that's only Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson. However, the CDC says the USCIS should also accept vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), which also includes AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.
The CDC says acceptable proof of vaccination documentation must come from an official vaccination record or a "copy of a medical chart with entries made by a physician or other appropriate medical personnel."
According to the USCIS, applicants may be granted exemption for a number of reasons, including not being eligible for the COVID vaccine due to age or medical contraindications or if there is a short supply. "Individuals may also apply for individual waivers based on religious beliefs or moral convictions," the USCIS states.
The CDC had previously advised waiting two weeks after your COVID vaccine to get any other shots "out of an abundance of caution." But the agency recently changed its guidance, noting that vaccinations for the coronavirus "can now be given at any time, without regard to the timing of other vaccinations."
"Now that we have so much experience with these COVID-19 vaccines, which we didn't have when they were first introduced, we are quite comfortable saying it's fine to give them with other vaccines," Kelly Moore, president and CEO of the Immunization Action Coalition, told The Washington Post.