As of October 1, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require U.S. green card applicants to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This means that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has been added to the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA’s) criteria for green card applicants. The INA already required applicants to be vaccinated against several preventable diseases.
This announcement follows the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Foreign nationals planning an EB5 investment should note that this requirement does not apply to investors who file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor. The I-526 petition is not in itself an application for conditional permanent resident status—EB-5 investors become eligible for conditional green cards only if their Form I-526 is approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The vaccination requirement applies only to green card applicants, such as EB-5 investors with an approved I-526 petition. EB-5 investors who are already in the United States with an immigrant visa and submit Form I-845, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, must also get vaccinated.
To comply with the CDC’s new guidelines, applicants will have to provide proof of vaccination. Proof of vaccination may take the form of a vaccination record or medical chart. If applicants are unable to get vaccinated before undergoing their medical exams, a civil surgeon may administer the vaccine during the exam—the important thing is for applicants to be vaccinated before the medical exam is completed. This extra step in the green card application process may cause delays.
Even though the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, green card applicants are allowed to receive other vaccines that have been approved for use in the United States, such as the Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen vaccine. Additionally, the CDC may allow certain applicants to be exempt from the vaccine requirement. For example, applicants who are too young to get vaccinated or cannot do so for health reasons can receive waivers.
COVID-19’s Impact on the EB-5 Program
The EB-5 investment industry was not exempt from the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic impact that the virus wreaked on the U.S. economy in 2020 forced many EB-5 projects to suspend development. Moreover, the increased unemployment rates altered which areas of the United States qualified as targeted employment areas (TEAs), which likely inconvenienced investors in the process of completing their I-526 petitions.
As the world slowly recovers from the pandemic, foreign nationals interested in the EB-5 program should act quickly to identify suitable EB-5 projects. Moreover, the minimum EB-5 investment amount is only $500,000 as of June 22, 2021, so this is the ideal time to make an EB-5 investment.