How to Prepare for the U.S. Immigration Medical Exam
When you immigrate to the United States, you’ll have to undergo a medical exam.
This exam, conducted by a government-authorized physician, includes several checks that tell U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you don’t have a health condition that could make you inadmissible to the United States.
How to Prepare for a Medical Exam for Immigration Purposes
Though you can’t study for your medical exam the way you’d study for your citizenship test, there are some things you can do to prepare. You’ll need to:
- Collect your medical history, including copies of any previous chest X-rays
- Find your immunization records (and make sure they're up to date, including your COVID-19 vaccinations)
- Get a letter from your current doctor that outlines a treatment plan for any health conditions you have
- Bring your health insurance card, if you have one
- Bring your identification
- Bring a partially completed copy of Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, if you’re applying from within the United States (fill out your portion before the appointment – but don’t sign it until the doctor tells you to)
Why Do You Need a Medical Exam to Immigrate to the United States?
The U.S. government requires you to participate in a medical exam before you can immigrate to the United States. That’s because the government agency wants to ensure that you don’t have a physical condition that would make you inadmissible to the United States. All family members who are seeking a family-based green card, as well as some other immigrants, must submit to a physical exam.
What Conditions Make You Inadmissible to the U.S.?
Often, individuals with communicable diseases of public health significance are inadmissible to the United States. In plain English, that means that a disease that someone can catch from you – if that disease is not already present in the U.S. or if it poses a great risk to people in the U.S. – makes you ineligible to immigrate to the country.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, maintains a list of communicable diseases of public health significance that includes:
- Hansen’s disease (leprosy) that’s infectious
- Syphilis that’s infectious
- Active Class A tuberculosis
- Other diseases that may make you subject to quarantine
Note: Although human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) used to be considered a communicable disease of public health significance, it’s no longer on the list. HIV does not make you inadmissible to the U.S., and immigration officers are required to disregard diagnosis of HIV infection when determining whether someone is inadmissible on health-related grounds.
What About Intellectual or Learning Disabilities?
You must present a report of your condition (or your family member’s condition) if an intellectual or learning disability is present. An intellectual or learning disability does not automatically make you (or your family member) inadmissible to the United States.
Certain mental or physical disorders, however, may make someone inadmissible to the United States, including these conditions:
- A mental or physical disorder that causes an individual to participate in harmful behavior as a result of the disorder. Although a disorder may have been present in the past, if it resulted in harmful acts that may likely recur, or cause other harmful acts, that individual will be deemed inadmissible
- Disorders or disabilities that are likely to make a prospective immigrant a public charge
A public charge is an intending immigrant whom the United States government believes won’t be able to financially sustain themselves in the U.S. and will need the government’s help to do so. The individual may have to use federal public benefits, like food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Medicaid.
In such instances, the U.S. government is very likely to deem the individual to be a public charge and USCIS may deny their green card application.
What Vaccinations Are Required To Immigrate To The U.S.?
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) specifies certain vaccinations that you must have completed in order to be admissible to the United States. They include vaccinations for hepatitis B, polio, tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, pertussis, and measles, mumps, and rubella.
There are certain vaccinations that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandate. They are for COVID-19, influenza, hepatitis A, meningococcal, and pneumococcal pneumonia.
The lists of vaccinations required under the INA and by the CDC are not exhaustive. You can refer to a comprehensive list of USCIS required vaccinations for immigrants.
What Happens During the Medical Exam for Immigration?
The U.S. immigration medical exam is comprised of:
- A complete review of your medical history and your immunization records, conducted by the physician performing the exam. The doctor will explore whether or not you’ve experienced any major health events, such as a severe illness or hospitalization for another significant issue
- A physical that involves a cursory examination of your: eyes, ears, nose and throat, extremities, heart, lungs, abdomen, lymph nodes, and skin. You can expect a chest X-ray to take place during your exam (to check for signs of tuberculosis)
- A mental evaluation
- The physician will assess your mental health, behavior, judgement, ability to comprehend, your mood, and your intelligence
- A drug and alcohol screening
- You will be asked if you are on any prescription medication, and whether you’ve ever consumed alcohol, used drugs, or if you’ve got a history of substance abuse
- Tests for diseases and illnesses
- You’ll have to undergo a blood test for syphilis and a test for gonorrhea—if you’re age 15 or older
How long your exam takes depends on your doctor and any conditions you have or would like to discuss with the physician. For many people, lab testing is necessary; that can take a little extra time.
This isn’t a comprehensive medical exam. Its only purpose is to screen you and your family members for some medical conditions that are tied into U.S. immigration law.
What Doctors Can Perform U.S. Immigration Medical Exams?
Only a government-authorized physician can perform a U.S. immigration medical exam. Unless your current doctor is authorized to perform these exams, you cannot use results from an exam with that doctor.
If you’re applying from in the United States, you’ll see a civil surgeon that USCIS has approved. You can locate an approved civil surgeon near you using the USCIS Find a Civil Surgeon online tool by entering your state, city, address, or zip code. In your search you can also indicate your preferred language and gender of the doctor who will perform the exam. You can also call 800-375-5283 (TTY: 800-767-1833) to coordinate your exam.
If you’re applying from outside the United States, you’ll see a panel physician that the U.S. Department of State has approved.
When and How Should You Schedule Your U.S. Immigration Medical Exam?
You can schedule your U.S. immigration medical exam before you begin the green card application process. Your completed Form I-693 is valid for two years after it’s signed by a civil surgeon. USCIS once required that you submit your green card application no more than 60 days after a civil surgeon signed Form I-693, but it eliminated that requirement.
If it’s more convenient, you can schedule your exam after you file your green card application. If that’s what you choose to do, you must send your results to USCIS promptly, or you can bring them with you to your green card interview. (You should bring a copy of your results to your green card interview anyway, just to make sure you have a backup if you need it.)
You could also submit Form I-693 at the same time that you file Form I-485. Doing so can help you avoid the possibility of getting a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. Basically, an RFE means that USCIS requires additional information from you so that it can process your immigration petition. In this case, it may request your Form I-693.
If you receive an RFE from USCIS, it will mean that the processing of your green card application will be paused until USCIS gets your form, and any other information it may have requested of you.
What Happens to Your Results of the Immigration Medical Exam?
In some countries, the physician sends results directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate. However, in other countries, the physician gives the applicant their own exam results in a sealed envelope.
You shouldn’t accept exam results that aren’t in a sealed envelope. In fact, USCIS will not accept your form if it’s not in a sealed envelope—or if it’s been opened or manipulated.
Note: If you have an additional copy of your medical exam results, you should bring it with you to your interview.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Your U.S. Immigration Medical Exam?
If you need help with the immigration process, or if you’re not sure what to do next, we may be able to help you. Call our office today or get in touch with us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and give you the guidance you need to move forward with your immigration petition.