When applying for a green card, a person must pass a medical exam as part of the process.  The purpose of a green card medical exam is to ensure that the person does not have any medical conditions that would make the person inadmissible to the United States. Some of these conditions include serious communicable diseases, a history of suicide/self-harm, mental disorders, or serious drug problems.In addition, you’ll need to satisfy the various requirements regarding vaccinations.

A medical exam may also be needed for other immigration-related applications, such as an adjustment of status, or to extend or change one’s immigration status. A person may be able to use their own physician for the medical exam, but only if the doctor is on the government’s list of approved physicians. The doctor who administers any immigration medical exam must be authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If a person is applying for a change in their immigration status outside of the United States, the medical examination must be done by a so-called “panel physician”. A “panel physician” is designated by the U.S. State Department. They provide required immigration medical examinations as part of visa processing at a U.S. Embassy or consulate in a country outside the U.S. 

Within the U.S. certain “civil surgeons” are designated by the USCIS to perform the medical examinations for most green card applicants. For military veterans, active military and their dependents, military doctors are authorized to do the immigration medical exams at military treatment facilities within the U.S.  

What Will Be Checked During the Green Card Medical Exam?

A green card medical exam typically involves:

  • A thorough review of the applicant’s medical history;
  • Chest x-rays;
  • Tuberculosis testing;
  • Blood and urine tests, especially for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), these will also detect drugs;
  • A random drug screening can be ordered if the doctor deems it necessary given an applicant’s history, behavior or physical appearance; and   
  • General physical examination of the heart, lungs, abdomen, eyes, ears, nose, throat, skin, extremities, lymph nodes, and external genitalia.

A person needs to bring some documents with them to the examination. Specifically, the following documents are necessary:

  • Form I-693, “Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record”;
  • A government-issued photo identification; and if the person is 14 years old or younger, identification that shows their name, date and place of birth and parent’s full name; possible forms of identification include a birth certificate (with an English translation) or an affidavit;
  • Documentation of all vaccinations or immunizations, such as DT, DTP, DTaP, Td, Tdap, OPV, IPV, MMR, Hib, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, varicella, pneumococcal influenza, rotavirus and meningococcal disease;
  • Proof of medical insurance coverage (a person should check before coming with the doctor’s office to make sure the office accepts their medical plan);
  • Payment (a person should check with the doctor’s office about acceptable forms of payment). It is recommended that the applicant call a few doctors to find out how much they charge for the exam. They do not all charge the same price and prices can vary by a few hundred dollars.

If anyone in the applicant family has mental retardation or learning disabilities, the family must provide a report of their condition and any special educational or supervision services they require.

Which Vaccinations are Needed?

Quite a few vaccinations are required for immigration applications.  They are as follows::

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Influenza and Influenza type B
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal and pneumococcal meningitis and sepsis
  • Mumps
  • Polio
  • Pertussis
  • Rubella
  • Rotavirus
  • Tetanus
  • Varicella.

If an applicant does not have all of the required immunizations, the doctor will administer them at the time of the examination. 

What Happens with the Results of the Medical Exam?

Depending on a person’s country of origin, the panel physician may be allowed to send the results of the medical exam directly to a U.S. embassy or consular office. In other countries, the panel physician will give the exam results to the applicant in a sealed envelope. The applicant will then be required to bring the sealed exam results to the next immigration interview if the results are requested. 

Keep in mind that the physician does not examine an applicant for any conditions other than those needed for immigration purposes. The green card medical exam is not a complete medical examination for diagnosis purposes. Instead, it is considered a screening process for medical conditions that are of concern only for the immigration process. So if a person suspects that they need to consult a physician because of a concern about their health, they would probably want to make another appointment with their own doctor for that purpose.

Certain medical conditions can make you ineligible for entry into the U.S. They are as follows:

  • An infectious disease of public health significance: there is a complete list in the Code of Federal Regulations and they can change by Executive Order of the President or the Centers for Disease Control, but the main ones are active tuberculosis, various venereal diseases, infectious leprosy and Covid-19;
  • A disorder, whether physical or mental, along with a history of behavior related to the disorder that poses a threat to the safety of the applicant or other people;
  • A disorder, whether physical or mental, along with a history of behavior related to the disorder that poses a threat to the safety of the applicant or other people and is likely to occur again. For example, a history of driving while intoxicated has been viewed as indicating inadmissibility.
  • Drug addiction or drug abuse.

Light use of marijuana might not make a person ineligible for a green card, but use of other types of illegal drugs may make a person inadmissible to the U.S. and ineligible for a green card. The doctor does look for evidence of drug use and alcohol abuse.

If drug or alcohol use is an issue for a person, they should probably consult an experienced immigration lawyer before scheduling a medical examination in order to get guidance as to how to deal with the issue.

Substance abuse conditions can be addressed and possibly overcome. Also an applicant can apply for a waiver. Applying for a waiver would probably best be done with the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer.

Once the medical exam is over, however, the applicant is not totally in the clear. If test results later indicate the presence of drugs or alcohol in the applicant’s system or if the doctor discovers conflicting information in the applicant’s medical record, the doctor can order a drug test and even inform the USCIS that the applicant may be inadmissible due to a substance abuse disorder.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Green Card Medical Exam?

The assistance of an immigration lawyer is indispensable for any green card applicant.  It’s to your benefit to hire a lawyer for help with your green card application. Your attorney can help you with your medical exam to ensure that you’re meeting all the requirements under immigration law.  

Also, if any obstacles arise in the process, your lawyer can help sort out your options for you. You can avoid costly errors by having an immigration attorney assist you throughout the application process.