On August 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will temporarily extend the validity period for Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, from the current two-year period to four years, due to processing delays related to COVID-19. The temporary extension is effectively immediately.

Form I-693 is a necessary component of an application for adjustment of status, also known as a “green card” application. Form I-693 is used to establish that “applicants who are seeking [lawful permanent residence] benefits are not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds.”

As a result of this temporary change in policy, USCIS may now consider a completed Form I-693 as valid if:

  • the civil surgeon’s signature is dated no more than 60 days before the applicant filed Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;
  • no more than four years have passed since the date the civil surgeon signed the applicant’s Form I-693; and
  • USCIS issues a decision on the applicant’s Form I-485 on or before September 30, 2021.

Prior to this announcement, Forms I-693 were only valid for two years from the date of signature. In its announcement, USCIS cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented processing delays as the catalyst for this temporary policy change. This will come as welcome news to green card applicants whose I-693s were at risk of expiring as a result of long processing times.

Due to a lower than average number of family-based green cards issued in the previous year, the number of employment-based green cards available in fiscal year (FY) 2021 has greatly increased, raising hopes that many individuals caught in per-country limitation backlogs may receive their green cards after years of waiting. According to the press release, “USCIS is on track to approve more employment-based adjustment of status applications than it has since FY 2005” (when it approved 246,877 such applications). However, many available green cards have not yet been accounted for. This raises the prospect that thousands of available employment-based green cards could go unused at the close of FY 2021 on September 30, 2021. With this updated policy, USCIS has stated that it hopes to speed up processing of pending adjustment of status applications and continues to prioritize employment-based applications as the end of the fiscal year nears.

Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to these and other policy changes and will post updates on the Immigration blog and in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.