To become a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. – that is, if you are seeking to acquire a green card – your first step is obtaining the advice and services of a Boston immigration attorney. You’ll also have to have a medical exam and vaccinations in order to acquire a green card.

If you are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate, you will also be required to undergo an immigration medical exam.

Why is a medical examination required, and who may conduct such an exam? Precisely what steps will you have to take? What will a doctor be looking for? Keep reading to learn these answers and more about the immigration medical exam.

Who Conducts Immigration Medical Exams?

If you are already in the United States and you are applying for adjustment of status to obtain a green card, the immigration medical exam must be conducted by a physician (or “civil surgeon”) designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you are outside of the United States, the immigration medical exam must be conducted by a physician (known as a “panel physician”) who has been approved by a United States Consulate.

The purpose of the immigration medical exam is to identify immigrant visa applicants and green card applicants who may have health-related conditions that make them inadmissible.

Who May Be Deemed Inadmissible?

You may be deemed inadmissible if you have a communicable disease that poses a risk to public health, if you have not been vaccinated for vaccine-preventable diseases, if you have or have had a physical or mental disorder linked to harmful behavior, or if you are a drug abuser or an addict.

The medical examination requirement applies to children as well as to adults who are seeking to obtain immigrant visas and green cards, although the examination doctor takes age into consideration, for example, in order to decide which vaccines will be required.

Your own physician cannot conduct the immigration medical examination unless your physician is already on an approved list of doctors. You’ll have to pay an exam fee, and USCIS does not regulate the fees charged by civil surgeons for the examination. The rates will vary by physician.

What is the Purpose of the Immigration Medical Exam?

The immigration medical examination isn’t like a typical medical check-up or exam, where you discuss your health issues and receive medical advice. Instead, the exam is a precautionary screening measure to determine if it’s safe to let you enter or remain in the U.S.

Your immigration medical exam doctor will not provide a general medical exam or determine if you have any medical conditions other than conditions that might disqualify you from acquiring a green card.

How Healthy Do You Need To Be?

Perfect health is not a requirement, but you cannot have a communicable or serious disease, a mental disorder, or a drug dependency or addiction that makes you ineligible to receive an immigrant visa or a green card.

When you arrive for your exam, the doctor’s office will examine your passport or your other identification – as a precaution against fraud – to ensure that a somewhat healthier person isn’t pretending to be you. The physician then determines if you’ve had the necessary vaccinations.

Which Diseases Make Someone Inadmissible?

If you are seeking an adjustment of status in the United States, as of 2020, your application for a green card may be rejected if you suffer from active tuberculosis, infectious stage syphilis, gonorrhea, or Hansen’s disease (infectious leprosy).

Along with those diseases, if you have applied for an immigrant visa through a United States Consulate, you can also be deemed inadmissible for the following diseases (as of 2020):

1. severe acute respiratory syndrome, yellow fever, diphtheria, cholera, infectious tuberculosis, smallpox, plague, viral hemorrhagic fever, and pandemic flu including COVID-19

2. any other disease that may present a public health risk

What About Non-Contagious Medical Conditions?

If you are struggling with an illness or medical condition that will not injure or infect others, (heart disease or cancer, for example), you are not inadmissible for medical reasons.

However, such an illness or medical condition might make you inadmissible if it means that you may need government assistance, you are unable to work, and you do not carry medical insurance.

Which Vaccinations Are Required?

To obtain a green card or immigrant visa, certain vaccinations are also required, with one exception: if you’re seeking to enter the United States with a fiancé visa, you may enter the U.S. but you must be vaccinated before you apply for lawful permanent residency.

Some of the mandatory vaccinations (as of 2020) – which are listed below – are needed only for green card applicants in particular age groups. Infants five weeks and younger are only required to have the Hepatitis B vaccination. At seven weeks, a child must have the rotavirus vaccine.

Vaccinations are mandatory for tetanus, diphtheria, varicella, rotavirus, pertussis, rubella, measles, polio, mumps, hepatitis A and B, meningococcal and pneumococcal disease, influenza, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

What Happens During the Immigration Medical Exam?

If you’ve had vaccinations, bring the documentation with you to the immigration medical exam. A doctor cannot simply take your word for it. The doctor may administer the vaccinations you need, or your first dose, during the examination.

You will be asked about your medical history including hospitalizations, institutionalizations for any mental condition, and any serious illness or disability that substantially impaired your well-being or ability to function.

You will be questioned regarding drug and alcohol use, and your chest X-rays and treatment records will be reviewed to determine if you have or had tuberculosis.

You’ll be asked about, and the doctor will look for, symptoms of neuropsychiatric, musculoskeletal, pulmonary, and cardiovascular disorders. Finally, the doctor will look for symptoms of any disease that makes you inadmissible to the United States.

How Will an Immigration Attorney Help You?

Certain visa and green card applicants may not be able to proceed with their immigration plans in 2020 due to the entry ban announced by President Trump on June 22. A Boston immigration lawyer can explain how the entry ban may apply to your personal situation.

Immigration has always been confusing, but recent executive orders, court rulings, and the COVID-19 pandemic have added even more complications. If you apply for a visa or a green card in 2020 or beyond, you must have the advice and services of a Boston immigration attorney.

Toland Law, LLC