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

Passing a medical exam is an important part of showing that you are not inadmissible to the U.S. and can be issued an immigrant visa or green card.

By , J.D.

As a test of whether you fall into a health-related ground of inadmissibility, any application for U.S. permanent residency (meaning an immigrant visa through a U.S. consulate overseas or a green card through adjustment of status in the U.S.) or for a fiancé visa will include a medical exam. It must be conducted by a doctor approved by the U.S. consulate or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who will then fill out a written report.

This requirement applies to both adult and child applicants, though the exam doctor will take age into account for purposes of things like deciding which vaccines are necessary.

Your own doctor cannot do the exam unless they happen to be on the government's list of approved doctors. You will need to pay the fee for the exam. The U.S. government does not control how much the doctor can charge.

What to Bring to the Appointment for an Immigration Medical Exam

You will need to bring along to the doctor's office:

  • Exam fee; typically between $130 and $450 in the United States. If you are in the United States, also bring your medical insurance card (some doctor's offices can obtain coverage of the fee from your medical plan).
  • Copies of prior medical records, immunization or vaccination records, and chest X-rays (if you've had any).
  • If you're ever had a positive skin test for tuberculosis, a certificate from your attending doctor describing the circumstances, treatment, and its duration; or if you have ever been diagnosed with tuberculosis, a signed certification from your attending doctor indicating that you were adequately treated.
  • If you've been treated or hospitalized for psychiatric or mental illness or alcohol or drug abuse, written certification from your doctor including the diagnosis, duration of treatment, and prognosis.
  • If you're being treated for any chronic medical conditions, or taking regular prescription medications, a list of diagnoses and medication names, or a doctor's certificate describing these along with the current treatment plan and prognosis.
  • If you have an intellectual or learning disability, present a professional report describing your condition and any special educational or supervision requirements.
  • Government-issued photo identification, such as a valid passport, driver's license, laissez-passer, or travel document.
  • If coming from overseas, a copy of your consular interview appointment notice.
  • If coming from overseas, a copy of your "Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application" confirmation page.
  • Passport photos—how many depends on where you're applying from.
  • If applying in the U.S., a printed copy of USCIS Form I-693. (Yes, the doctor's office likely will have these on hand, but by bringing one along that you've recently printed out, you'll make sure they're using the latest acceptable version.)

Be sure to check any instructions from the physician's office in case these requirements have been added to or changed.

What the Doctor Is Looking For

This is not like a regular physical exam or check-up, where you bring up health issues that you are experiencing, and receive wide-ranging medical advice. It is more of a screening exam, to see whether it is safe to allow you into the United States. You don't have to be in perfect health, but you must not have any serious or communicable diseases, mental disorders, or drug problems that would make you inadmissible (ineligible for a visa or green card; see Inadmissibility: When the U.S. Can Keep You Out for more on this topic).

The first thing the doctor's office will do is check your passport or other identity document, to make sure that you are really you, and that you haven't sent a healthier person in your place.

The doctor will also make sure that you have had all the required vaccinations. The doctor will not, however, give you a general physical exam or tell you whether you have any health conditions beyond the ones of interest to U.S. immigration authorities.

If you are applying to adjust status in the U.S., the diseases that can make you inadmissible (as of 2022) are gonorrhea, infectious leprosy (Hansen's disease), infectious stage syphilis, and active tuberculosis.

If you are seeking an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate, two more types of disease can make you inadmissible:

  • certain diseases that might make you subject to quarantine (recently including cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers, severe acute respiratory syndromes, and novel or reemergent influenza (pandemic flu including the COVID-19 coronavirus), as well as
  • certain diseases that may pose a public health emergency of international concern when there's a threat that you'll bring that disease to the U.S. and the disease could affect the health of the American public.

See Chapter 6 of the USCIS Policy Manual for details and updates.

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 in the U.S. 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.

Refugees and people granted asylum in the U.S. do not need the vaccinations until they apply for a green card.

Vaccinations You and Your Children Must Have to Avoid Inadmissibility

In 2022, the required vaccinations included the ones listed below. Some of these are required only for people in certain age groups. If other diseases later become preventable by vaccines, they may be added to this list.

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Pertussis
  • Polio
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Rotavirus
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Varicella
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Influenza (flu), and
  • COVID-19 (unlike other vaccines, the full series must be completed before the physician completes the medical exam report).

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 them done. If the vaccination reports are not in English, you will also need to bring a written, full English translation.

If you haven't had certain vaccines, the doctor will administer them (or at least the first dose) during this exam. However, the physician will not simply give the same set of vaccines to everyone. The exact nature of the requirement depends on which vaccines are considered age-appropriate, in the judgment of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

You can view a chart of which vaccines are considered medically appropriate at various ages in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Policy Manual under Chapter 9, Vaccination Requirement.

As you'll see, infants five weeks old and younger are required only to have the Hepatitis B vaccination. A child who has reached seven weeks of age must also have the rotavirus vaccine.

What Happens During the Immigration Medical Exam

The doctor or a member of the doctor's professional staff will ask you for your medical history. The doctor will review all the times you have ever been in the hospital, any time you had to be put in an institution for a chronic physical or mental condition, and all the times you've ever been sick or disabled so seriously that it resulted in a "substantial departure from a normal state of well-being or level of functioning."

The doctor will ask specific questions about psychoactive drug and alcohol use. (You might want to also read, Can a Recovering Drug Addict Get a U.S. Visa or Green Card?.)

In addition, the doctor will ask about any history of any history of harmful behavior or any psychiatric illness not documented in the medical records. The doctor will also review chest X-rays and treatment records to see if you have or ever had tuberculosis.

The doctor will review any other records, such as police, military, school, or employment records, that might help to determine a history of harmful behavior related to a physical or mental disorder. These records also may show whether you have any illnesses or disabilities that result in a substantial departure from a normal state of well-being or level of functioning.

The doctor will ask specifically about symptoms that suggest cardiovascular, pulmonary, musculoskeletal, and neuropsychiatric disorders, and will look for symptoms that you are infected with any of the diseases that would make you inadmissible.

The doctor will then give you a physical examination, which will include looking at your eyes, ears, nose and throat, extremities, heart, lungs, abdomen, lymph nodes, skin, and external genitalia. The doctor will also perform a mental status examination, assessing your intelligence, thought, comprehension, judgment, affect, mood, and behavior.

The doctor will do any test necessary to diagnose—or confirm a suspected diagnosis of—diseases that could make you inadmissible. A blood draw and chest X-rays are usually part of the testing. You do not need to fast (refrain from eating) in preparation for the blood draw.

If you're too sick at the time of the medical exam for the doctor to perform all the necessary tests, you'll be referred to your own doctor to get better, and told to come back for the immigration medical exam later.

If your case is unusual and the doctor can't say for sure whether you can pass the medical exam, the doctor can refer you to another doctor to perform further testing.

When the examination is done, the doctor will prepare a form with results and findings. The doctor will give you the form in a sealed envelope for you to give the consulate or to USCIS (don't open the envelope!). In some cases when you are applying for a visa overseas, the doctor will send the results directly to the consulate.

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