Immigration Update

Aug 30, 2021 | Immigration Updates

In this edition, read about COVID vaccinations being required for many green card applicants, the Justice Department settling immigration-related discrimination claims with a large health care organization, and the DHS releasing guidance for immigration processing of Afghan citizens fleeing Afghanistan.

COVID Vaccinations to be Required for Many Green Card Applicants

With few exceptions, those applying for permanent residence (green card) must be vaccinated against COVID-19, now classified as a “Class A inadmissible condition,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced. The new requirement will take effect October 1, 2021. The CDC explained that the COVID-19 vaccination meets the criteria for required vaccinations and is a requirement for applicants eligible for the vaccine regardless of evidence of immunity, a negative COVID-19 test, or prior COVID-19 infection. According to the CDC, the applicant “must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination to the civil surgeon in person before completion of the medical examination.” The COVID-19 vaccination requirement differs from previous requirements in that “the entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) must be completed in addition to the other routinely required vaccines. COVID-19 vaccinations can now be given at any time, without regard to the timing of other vaccinations.” Acceptable vaccines include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). Waivers are available for certain reasons. Panel physicians in countries outside the United States may accept vaccines authorized for emergency use or accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or vaccines listed for emergency use (EUL) by the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition to the three vaccines used in the United States, WHO lists many other vaccines used outside the United States, such as AstraZeneca, Covishield and Covaxin, Sputnik, Sinopharm and Sinovac, among others.  According to reports, the Biden administration also is developing plans for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for almost all foreign visitors to the United States, with some exceptions. As there is a great disparity in COVID-19 vaccination programs across the world, the mandating of vaccines for green card applicants and visitors may hinder the ability of people to easily come to the United States. According to the New York Times vaccine tracker, the United Arab Emirates has the highest percentage of fully vaccinated people within its population (76%), while the percentage of fully vaccinated people in countries such as India (10%), Senegal (3.5%), and Haiti (<0.1%) is abysmally low. Waivers are available for certain reasons.

Details: “CDC Requirements for Immigrant Medical Examinations: COVID-19 Technical Instructions for Civil Surgeons,” Aug. 17, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/immigrantrefugeehealth/civil-surgeons/covid-19-technical-instructions.html

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Justice Dept. Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims with Large Health Care Organization

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on August 25, 2021, that it reached a settlement related to immigration discrimination claims with Ascension Health Alliance, a Missouri-based health care organization with more than 2,600 sites—including 146 hospitals and more than 40 senior living facilities—in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The settlement resolves DOJ’s claims that Ascension violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when it discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens because of their citizenship status. Based on its investigation, DOJ determined that Ascension told its non-U.S. citizen employees to present new documents to prove their continued work authorization even when it was not required. The investigation found that Ascension improperly programmed customized software to send automated emails requesting proof of continued work authorization to all non-U.S. citizen employees, including U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, asylees and refugees, close to the expiration date of the documents they provided when completing the Form I-9. These non-U.S. citizen employees often presented documents that did not require reverification of employment eligibility. In some instances, after sending the emails, Ascension further required non-U.S. citizen employees to present new documents to continue working. In contrast, Ascension did not program the software to send emails to U.S. citizens and therefore did not notify U.S. citizens near the expiration of their documents. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Ascension will pay the United States a civil penalty of $84,832.00. Additionally, Ascension will train its employees on the requirements and be subject to monitoring for a three-year period.

Details: Press release, Dept. of Justice, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-settles-large-health-care-organization-resolve-software-based-immigration

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DHS Releases Guidance for Immigration Processing of Afghan Citizens Fleeing Afghanistan

There is now new guidance from USCIS for the immigration processing of Afghan citizens during Operation Allies Refuge. As everyone knows, there are many thousands of Afghan citizens being evacuated from Afghanistan, many who will benefit from this new guidance. The memo states that some of these individuals were in various stages of processing for immigration status in the United States, and through various paths based on family relationships, Special Immigrant Visas, or refugee programs, for example.  Many were not able to complete these processes because of the current situation in Afghanistan. The memo notes that others, despite likely eligibility, never applied because they had not previously sought to leave Afghanistan and relocate to the United States. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is therefore authorizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection [CBP] officers to parole certain Afghan nationals into the United States, “on a case-by-case basis, for a period of two years and subsequent to appropriate vetting, provided their movement to the United States is being carried out pursuant to Operation Allies Refuge.” Once paroled into the United States by CBP, Afghan nationals may be eligible to apply for status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Afghan nationals paroled by CBP may also have conditions placed on their parole, to include medical screening and reporting requirements. Failure to follow these conditions may be cause for termination of the parole and initiation of detention and removal,” the memo notes.

Details: “Guidance for the Immigration Processing of Afghan Citizens During Operation Allies Refuge,” DHS memorandum, Aug. 23, 2021.

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