Immigration Vaccine Waivers
A Complicated Procedure
I’m rounding out recent months’ specific vaccine exemption articles with this one about immigration vaccine waivers. Yes, somewhere beneath the flood of illegal immigrants pouring into our country every day to help the cabal disassemble our nation’s infrastructure in concert with multiple other “social engineering” tactics lies a far smaller but not insignificant number of respectable foreigners seeking to establish U.S. citizenship legally. Yes, legal immigrants do exist! (What a concept!)v And within that rarely discussed group of ethical human beings seeking to immigrate to the U.S. legally is a smaller, even less often discussed group of vaccine-aware immigrants seeking to legally avoid the vaccines required to immigrate. (Sounds weird hearing the words “immigrant” and “legal” together, doesn’t it?)
An immigration attorney once asked if I’d ever had a client actually get an immigration waiver. After talking with his peers, he was of the impression that it was all but impossible to get a religious waiver approved. I gladly explained that I’d never had a client whose waiver request was denied. (I’ve helped hundreds of immigrants get waivers over the past couple of decades.) I don’t think he believed me, though, as I never heard from him again. Curiously, immigration waivers are more complicated than other exemptions and waivers because they can involve the preparation of multiple documents involving multiple people; yet it’s been my most successful exemption category, overall, my past immigration clients having enjoyed an overall 99% success rate (the 1% being an isolated instance in which a client didn’t hire me to address an erroneous waiver denial). Anyway, here’s a quick overview of what’s involved with immigration vaccine waivers.
First, immigration vaccine requirements are a separate category from vaccines required to physically enter the U.S. The former concerns routine vaccines required for immigrants by the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), whether the immigrant is living abroad or already resides in the U.S. The latter concerns emergency vaccines required by the CDC to enter the U.S. during a declared emergency as was the case with covid vaccines over the past 2 to 3 years. (See Vaccines Required for International Travel for more about this.)
Next, the general category of “immigration waivers” includes five sub-categories, where each subcategory involves some law not applicable to the other sub-categories: 1) immigrants living abroad; 2) immigrants already living in the U.S.; 3) foreign-adopted children; 4) refugees; and 5) asylees. There can be different forms, waiver application fees, and/or procedures for each of these different subcategories. But the preparation of religious waiver documents is otherwise essentially the same for each sub-category. The specific end-result, of course, will be unique to each waiver applicant.
As a federal agency, the USCIS promulgates (enacts) regulations within the scope of the authority granted it by Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by federal courts in relevant legal precedent court cases. Immigrants seek to be “admitted” to the U.S., so those refusing required vaccines are deemed “inadmissible.” In order to be admitted despite being “inadmissible,” non-vaccinating immigrants must apply for a “Waiver of Inadmissibility” on medical or religious grounds. Medical exemptions require a qualifying medical contraindication and a civil surgeon’s recommendation (a “civil surgeon” is a USCIS-approved medical doctor). As few non-vaccinating immigrants can get a medical exemption, most seek a religious waiver, which is the focus for the rest of this article. Please note, however, that for legal purposes, “religious” is quite broad—one needn’t belong to an organized religion, nor does it matter which religion if they do. What matters is having beliefs opposed to vaccines that meet the legal requirements. As most people’s common-sense approach to the task of describing their religious beliefs opposed to vaccines is not fully consistent with the legal requirements (we get to decide what we believe, but the law decides what beliefs qualify for a legal right), getting reliable information about how the law works is essential to maximize one’s chance of being granted a requested waiver—or, for that matter, of getting an exemption in any situation where explaining your religious beliefs is required. See these exemption articles, The Authoritative Guide to Vaccine Legal Exemptions e-book, and information about these exemption manuals for more about how the law works on this point. These articles and documents have information not available anywhere else.
Most immigrants can use USCIS form I-601, which has a $930 filing fee. Some immigrants can use form I-690, which has a $715 filing fee (see the online form instructions for more information about which form applies to any given situation). Refugees and asylees use I-602, which has no filing fee. The appropriate USCIS form is required to get a waiver, but these forms are not specific to vaccine waivers. They apply to a variety of different situations that includes, but isn’t limited to, requesting a waiver on religious grounds to USCIS vaccine requirements. Unfortunately, each family member must have their own waiver application (however, a minor child’s religious beliefs are those of the parent(s) for waiver purposes), so requesting religious waivers is expensive for immigrating families. But immigrants who can’t afford the fees can request a fee waiver with form I-912. (Be sure to study the above details so you’re ready for the pop quiz at the end of this article).
USCIS regulations list three waiver requirements: 1) opposition to all vaccinations in any form, 2) opposition that’s based on religious beliefs or moral convictions, and 3) the belief or conviction must be sincere. Regarding these:
The first requirement is just flat out unconstitutional. For example, one could be opposed to only those vaccines whose manufacture involved the use of aborted fetal tissues, which is a perfectly valid religious objection, legally, that applies to only some vaccines. However, as this has never come up for me, I’ve had no occasion to see whether the USCIS would cooperate with such a situation. But if it did, the legally proper response from the USCIS would be to revise their regulations by removing this requirement (but don’t hold your breath, folks; pharma loves illegally restricting our rights).
Regarding the second requirement, the phrase “moral conviction” does not open up a separate philosophical exemption category. This phrase is for the benefit of USCIS officials, to ensure that they understand that religious waivers don’t require church membership. A waiver applicant’s “moral conviction” still has to be “religious in nature” as the law defines that phrase. You see, for legal exemption purposes, the scope of qualifying religious beliefs extends far beyond the common interpretation of the world “religion” to include beliefs not affiliated with organized religions, and even some beliefs that don’t include a belief in a western theological god. For more about this, see Religious Exemptions, Clearing Some of the Confusion, and Religious Exemptions for Atheists?! Yes, It’s Possible! Here’s How…
The USCIS requires only the appropriate form and application fee, and an affidavit (notarized statement) describing the waiver applicant’s religious beliefs opposed to immunizations. However, the regulations state that additional corroborating evidence, if available and credible, should also be submitted, and such evidence must be considered by the USCIS officer processing the waiver application. This gives waiver applicants the opportunity to bolster their chances of getting the waiver in a potentially powerful way. You see, the USCIS has discretion with respect to granting waivers. They review whatever documents an applicant submits and then make a decision based on those documents. So, the more persuasive an application, the more likely the waiver will be granted. Bottom line, “additional corroborating evidence,” when effective, can strengthen a waiver application, increasing the chances of the waiver being granted. While the regulation’s general wording places no restriction on what additional evidence a waiver applicant might submit, this is often documentation of past religious exemptions when waiver applicants have that; and/or support from credible third parties corroborating the applicant’s claims. Knowing how to do this effectively—what to do and what not to do, specifically—is beyond the scope of an article, but it can be a make-it-or-break-it component to waiver applications (the manuals address this in detail).
Unfortunately, the exorbitant USCIS waiver filing fees can be the smaller part of the total cost of getting an immigration waiver. Recent applicants report that immigration attorneys asking fees of $5,000 or more, depending on how many family members will be seeking waivers—one attorney recently quoted a family a price of $9,000. My manuals cost a tiny fraction of this and provide information you can’t get from immigration attorneys who aren’t specialists in religious vaccine waivers, despite some claiming expertise in I-601 forms generally. (Please email me if you’d like more information about the Immigration Waiver Manuals or other exemption manuals.)
Please feel free to reach out with any exemption-related questions; I’m here to serve you!
Alan Phillips, J.D.
Vaccine Rights Legal Expert
Have an exemption question? Contact Alan at vaccinerights.com. Some questions may be addressed in future articles (with anonymity).
A “Must Read”: Fear vs. Knowledge (https://vaccinerights.com/fearvsknowledge), an article about the critical missing piece to the entire vaccine activism movement: The powerful manipulation psychology used against both sleeper and aware communities.
Alan Phillips, J.D., is the nation’s leading vaccine rights legal expert, the only person who’s ever been a fulltime attorney with exemptions, who’s worked in over 60 exemption contexts and sub-contexts with clients, attorneys, legislators, and activists nationally for over two decades. For exemption help, see vaccinerights.com.