If you are applying for a green card or immigration visa to live permanently in the United States, one of the requirements is undergoing a medical examination with a designated civil surgeon. The purpose of this exam is to identify whether the applicant has any health conditions that could make them inadmissible under U.S. immigration law.

Certain diseases and medical issues are treated seriously due to concerns over public health, excessive costs for care or services, or potential difficulties with self-care and self-support. Having one of these conditions doesn’t necessarily mean your green card will be denied, but does require further evaluation, treatment, and potentially applying for a special waiver. What medical conditions could prevent you from being allowed to immigrate to the U.S.?

Health-Related Grounds of Inadmissibility

According to Section 212(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), applicants can be found inadmissible to the United States on health-related grounds if they have:

The civil surgeon evaluates each applicant for these potential inadmissible health conditions as part of the immigration medical exam process and documents their findings on the Form I-693 Report.

Communicable Diseases of Concern

There are specific communicable diseases that are treated as grounds for inadmissibility due to the public health risk if not treated or managed properly:

This list was significantly shortened from previous versions to reflect current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance. While other contagious diseases like COVID-19 and seasonal flu are not listed, USCIS officers do have discretion to look for signs of an uncontrolled communicable disease of concern.

Inadmissible Mental Health Issues

On the mental health side, applicants found to have certain harmful behavior patterns are ineligible if the civil surgeon determines they may pose a threat or danger to property, self, or others:

The inadmissibility determination is based on current behavior, not simply the diagnosis itself. The standard is whether the applicant may be a risk to self or others.

However, applicants with well-controlled mental health conditions on proper medication with proper outside support are typically not inadmissible.

Physical Disorders and Disability
Applicants with physical disorders, disabilities, or certain severely ill conditions may potentially be inadmissible if the civil surgeon finds they are:

Simply having a disability or illness alone is not enough for an inadmissibility finding. The civil surgeon is looking at whether adequate outside care, services, and support have been established so the applicant can support themselves without being overly burdened on publicly-funded resources.

How to Overcome Inadmissibility

If the immigration medical exam surfaces any inadmissible health conditions or concerns, there are still potential paths for applicants to gain admission to the U.S.:

Not every medical condition automatically results in a denial. The key is getting it properly evaluated and documented while demonstrating the applicant is taking responsible steps to control or resolve the health issue. Immigration officers have discretion to approve cases if the totality of the evidence supports admission.

Working With Immigration Attorneys

Due to the complexity in determining whether a health issue makes someone ineligible, it is highly recommended that immigration applicants prepare their cases with assistance from an experienced lawyer. Immigration attorneys deeply understand what conditions trigger inadmissibility and what evidence is needed to overcome those findings.

They can help applicants appropriately disclose medical histories to meet legal requirements while avoiding raising unnecessary red flags. Lawyers also assist with inadmissibility waiver filings, preparing legal arguments for discretion, arranging proper medical monitoring, and dealing with any other issues stemming from the immigration medical exam.

While the medical examination is just one step in the green card process, it can create major roadblocks if inadmissible health conditions are not properly evaluated and addressed. Advance preparation is key, which starts with understanding what specific diseases and issues could derail an immigration case. With competent legal guidance, many inadmissibility findings can effectively be overcome.


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