Medical Exams For Immigration Now Require COVID-19 Vaccination

For those who are applying for legal permanent resident status (aka Green Card) a vital part of the approval process is the medical examination. The exams are required to be done by medical doctors who have been approved by USCIS. The purpose of the exam is to ensure that aliens entering the U.S. (or already here and applying for resident status) do not pose a threat to the public health and to identify the presence or absence of certain disorders that could result in exclusion from the U.S. under immigration law. Refugees and Asylees applying for adjustment to permanent residence are also required to pass the medical exam. 

The immigration medical exam includes the physical exam, medical review, chest X-ray, a blood test for syphilis and a urine exam for gonorrhea.  Children under age 15 are not required to have the chest X-rays or blood test. I explain to my clients that the immigration medical exam is not a complete physical exam and should not replace your physical exam that you may need from your primary care provider. 

Class A medical conditions that render an applicant inadmissible include:

Communicable diseases of public health significance

A failure to show proof of required vaccines 

Physical or mental disorders that may result in harmful behavior

Substance abuse and substance abuse-related physical or mental disorders. 

Some class A conditions that are treated can be re-classified as Class B conditions which do not render a person inadmissible to the U.S. 

The required exam includes evaluation of physical and mental disorders with associated harmful behaviors and substance use disorders.  Immigration law provides three grounds of inadmissibility related to substance addiction or abuse or physical or mental disorders that affects behavior. These are current physical or mental disorder with associated harmful behavior.

Current physical or mental disorder with a history of associated harmful behavior if the harmful behavior is likely to recur or lead to other harmful behavior in the future.

Drug (substance) abuse or addiction (medically identified as a “substance use disorder”) of any of the substances listed in Section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act.

Note that they use the term “Current” which means that a past drug addiction problem does not render a person permanently inadmissible.  They generally interpret the term current to mean within the last year. Also, a mental disorder with no history of associated harmful behavior does not render a person inadmissible. The question I am most asked is whether taking anti-depressants renders a person inadmissible. It does not. 

Required vaccines include mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, pertussis, influenza, Rotavirus, Hib, hepatitis A and B, varicella, pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, and any other vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices.

COVID-19 vaccines are now required for applicants for refugee or immigration status.  All applicants who take their immigration medical examination on or after Oct 1, 2021, must be fully vaccinated.  So please get your vaccines now if you have not already done so.

Linda M Kaplan
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