What the Medical Exam for a U.S. Green Card Involves

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As a test of whether you fall into a health-related ground of inadmissibility, any application for U.S. green card (immigrant visa) or fiancé visa will include a medical exam by a doctor approved by the U.S. consulate or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This applies to both adult and child applicants.

Your own doctor cannot do the exam unless he or she happens to be on the government’s list of approved doctors. You will need to pay the fee for this exam. It will include not only the doctor examining you and asking questions, but a blood draw and chest X-rays. You do NOT need to fast (refrain from eating) in preparation for the blood draw.

What Happens During the Medical Exam

The purpose of the medical exam is to make sure that you do not have any serious or communicable diseases, mental disorders, or drug problems that would make you inadmissible to the U.S. (ineligible for a visa or green card). See "Inadmissibility: When the U.S. Can Keep You Out" for more on this topic. The doctor will also make sure that you have had all the required vaccinations. The doctor will not, however, give you a general physical or tell you whether you have any health conditions beyond the ones of interest to the U.S. immigration authorities.

There is no official list of diseases or disorders that make a visa applicant inadmissible. The examining doctor will decide whether your condition and behavior has “posed or is likely to pose a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “top suspect” diseases include infectious tuberculosis, untreated venereal and other sexually transmitted diseases, and untreated Hansen’s disease (leprosy). HIV was removed from the list in January of 2010.

If you have an illness that causes you trouble but will not infect or injure others, such as heart disease, cancer, or certain mental illnesses, you will not be inadmissible on medical grounds. However, it's possible you could be found inadmissible as a likely public charge -- that is, someone likely to require need-based government assistance (often referred to as welfare) -- if you will not be able to work and don’t have medical insurance.

A further requirement of getting a U.S. green card is that you have had certain vaccinations. The list of those vaccinations is below. If you are entering the U.S. on a fiancé visa, however, you have the choice of either getting these vaccines as part of the medical exam you get for your fiancé visa, or as part of the medical exam you get when you later apply for your green card.

Vaccinations You Must Have

The required vaccinations presently include the ones listed below. Some of these are required only in certain age groups. If other diseases later become preventable by vaccines, they may be added to this list.

• mumps

• rubella

• measles

• polio

• tetanus and diphtheria toxoids

• pertussis

• influenza (including type B)

• hepatitis A and B

• varicella

• meningococcal bacteria

• pneumococcal bacteria

• rotavirus.

Bring a copy of any past vaccination reports -- the doctor will not be able to accept your word for the fact that you've had these done. If the vaccination reports are not in English, you will also need to bring a written, full English translation along. 

If you haven't had certain vaccines, the doctor will administer them (or at least the first dose) during this exam.

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