The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires green card applicants to pass a medical exam before being granted permanent residence in the United States of America.
If you need help figuring out where to start with the exam process, this article offers a step-by-step guide to the medical exam for a green card.
We’ll also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this medical exam.
But before we dig into the details, here are some key points worth bearing in mind.
- Only a USCIS-approved doctor can conduct this exam.
- You can use the Find a Doctor tool to find an approved doctor near you.
- Common communicable diseases the medical examination checks for: gonorrhea, leprosy (Hansen’s Disease), syphilis, and tuberculosis.
- You will need to schedule an appointment with a USCIS-approved doctor before the interview with the USCIS.
Understanding the Purpose of the Medical Exam for Green Card
Certain issues might make you inadmissible when you apply for a green card. In other words, when you are deemed inadmissible, you are not allowed to enter or remain in the United States. The whole point of having a medical exam is to ensure that you are not admissible based on health reasons.
To put things into perspective, the USCIS has a checklist of things that could ruin your chances of getting a green card. Therefore, when you submit your petition, the USCIS will pull out this checklist and cross each item one by one, checking whether there is any reason to deny your application.
According to the USCIS, an applicant may be inadmissible due to the following:
This is when your health condition prevents you from being granted entry into the United States or remaining permanently if you already reside in the U.S. We will cover these health concerns shortly.
The USCIS might also deny your application if they discover that you are or were involved in certain criminal activities. Kidnapping, drug and human trafficking, money laundering, and prostitution are examples of crimes that could make you inadmissible.
National Security Concerns
The USCIS will not let you into the country if they have a reason to believe that your presence in the U.S. threatens national security. Being involved in terrorism is the most common example of a reason the USCIS will reject a green card petition.
Public Charge Concerns
Before the USCIS grants your petition for a green card, they must ensure that you will not become a public charge.
A public charge is an individual who relies on government assistance for their basic needs. To ensure that you will not be a public charge, you must prove that your income meets the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
The government will only accept your petition if it meets this requirement.
Fraud or Misrepresentation
The USCIS must also establish that you did not commit fraud or willfully misrepresent a U.S. official to gain legal status in the U.S. For example, if you intentionally lied in your application for U.S. permanent residence, you may be barred from obtaining a green card.
Lack of Labor Certification
You must have labor certification if you plan on immigrating to the United States for employment-related reasons. However, keep in mind that migrating to the United States to seek employment does not qualify under this category.
Rather, labor certification is required if you already have a U.S. employer petitioning for you to live and work in the United States.
When they file such a petition on your behalf, they must obtain a labor certification. This certification aims to demonstrate that your employment in the United States will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar positions.
In other words, it shows that your employer is not hiring you because you will provide cheaper labor than U.S. workers in a similar position would.
Secondly, the employer must prove that there are not enough workers in the U.S. willing, qualified, and able to perform the same duties and responsibilities as you.
Basically, the USCIS wants to know why your employer made the right decision to hire you rather than choose someone else in the U.S. to perform the same duties and responsibilities as you would.
Prior Removals or Unlawful U.S. Presence
If you have been banned from entering the United States due to a violation of your previous visitor status (e.g., overstaying a visa), you may not be granted a green card. The same applies if you were deported from the U.S.
Miscellaneous Grounds of Inadmissibility
You may also be denied a green card if:
- You entered the United States illegally without being inspected by a Customs and Border Protection official
- You failed to attend removal proceedings
- You participated in smuggling
- You abused your student visa
- You practice polygamy
- You voted unlawfully
- You renounced your citizenship to avoid taxation
- You participated in child abduction or are a relative of a child abductor
Medical Exam Process Explained
Back to the medical exam process, you need to know a few important things before, during, and after the exam, as discussed below.
Before the Medical Exam
When applying for a green card, you must fill out Form I-485. Here’s a complete guide to Form I-485 processing times.
In addition, a medical exam is required before the USCIS approves your petition. The results for this exam are usually submitted through Form I-693. You can either submit Form I-693 with Form I-485 (concurrent filing) or submit each form individually.
It is also important to note that you will need to find the doctor and book an appointment with them. The correct process of finding the right doctor will depend on your location when applying for a green card.
When to Complete the Medical Exam If You Live In the U.S.
If you already live in the United States, you will need to apply for an adjustment of status by filing Form I-485. Then, use the Find a Doctor tool available on the USCIS website to locate a USCIS-approved doctor near you.
You can search for the nearest doctor by entering your address and zip code into the search tool and hitting the ‘Search’ button. The tool will scan the nearest civil surgeons (panel physicians) and provide their contact information. After obtaining this information, contact the doctor to schedule an appointment.
Keep in mind that your own personal doctor cannot conduct this exam unless they have been approved by the USCIS. This policy is designed to preserve the integrity of the test results.
Also, note that the doctor might double up as a military physician. For this reason, you may need to undergo this test at a military treatment facility. Do not worry when that happens; getting examined by a military physician does not mean you are under military supervision or have violated any laws.
If you reside outside the United States, you will have several pathways to obtaining a U.S. green card. Regardless of your chosen pathway, you must take this test before obtaining a green card. Individuals residing outside the United States must schedule an appointment with a panel physician.
A panel physician is a medical professional designated by the U.S. State Department to provide immigration medical examinations as part of the visa processing for applicants living outside of the United States.
When to Complete the Medical Exam If You Live Outside the U.S.
Applicants who reside outside the United States will need to follow a different process when applying for a green card and scheduling the medical exam. The steps are as follows:
- Submit the petition for review by the USCIS.
- If approved, the USCIS will send the petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.
- Pay the processing fee. These fees vary depending on the type of petition.
- Provide the required documents.
- Prepare for the interview after receiving a notification from the NVC via email.
- Schedule a medical exam before the interview.
- Gather the documentation needed for the interview.
- Attend the interview.
As noted in the steps above, you should schedule the medical exam only after the confirmation of the interview.
The State Department has a list of approved doctors and clinics you should visit for your immigration medical exams in your country if applying from outside the United States. You can find this list on their website.
What to Bring to the Medical Exam
During the exam, you will need to bring the following:
- Your Form I-693.
- Your government-issued photo ID. This could be a valid passport or a driver’s license. You may bring your birth certificate if you are 14 years or younger. However, the birth certificate must bear your name, date of birth, place of birth, and parent’s full name.
- Records of vaccinations against certain diseases like influenza, polio, mumps, etc.
- Medical insurance card.
- Payment for the exam – ensure you call the doctor’s office in advance to find out how much they charge for the exam. This is because the medical fees vary from one doctor to another.
During the Exam
The doctor will review your medical history and then conduct a comprehensive examination. They will test for infectious diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and tuberculosis. Remember, as discussed earlier, this exam aims to rule out inadmissibility based on health reasons.
However, this does not necessarily mean that you should have a clean bill of health. It also does not mean that you will not pass the exam if you previously had an infectious disease but have since been cured.
How the Testing Process Works
Whether you are applying from within or outside the United States, you will be required to take a tuberculosis test. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has different testing guidelines depending on your location.
Testing for Tuberculosis
Here are the different scenarios:
Applying From the U.S.
When applying for a green card from the U.S., your doctor will need to conduct an ‘interferon-gamma release assay” (IGRA) test. All applicants aged two or older are required to take this test.
The initial test results will determine whether you need further testing. You will likely need additional testing if the results show that you may have tuberculosis.
It is also worth noting that the USCIS no longer accepts the Tuberculin Skin Test, also known as TST, for green card petitions within the U.S.
Applying from Outside the US
The recommended test will also depend on your country of residence outside of the U.S. For example, if you live in a country with rampant tuberculosis cases, you may need to take an X-ray test. This requirement applies to applicants aged 15 and older.
Other than the tuberculosis test, you will also need to prove that you have been vaccinated against the following:
- Pneumococcal Pneumonia
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Haemophilus Influenza Type B
- Mumps, measles, and rubella
- Diphtheria toxoids and tetanus
Since the USCIS and the CDC constantly update the list of vaccination requirements for immigration purposes, it is always advisable to check the policy manual on the USCIS website to view the most updated vaccination requirements.
Medical History Review
When reviewing your medical history, the doctor will consider whether:
- You have ever been admitted to an institution for a psychiatric or medical problem.
- You have ever been severely sick or disabled and unable to function as a healthy person would.
- You have ever stayed in the hospital or experienced any significant events in your health history.
Psychiatric or Mental Illness Check
When reviewing your mental health, the doctor will likely focus on your:
Specifically, they will check:
- whether you have any current mental health or physical problems that could lead to or is associated with harmful or violent behavior; or
- whether you had any past physical or mental disorder that could lead to or are associated with dangerous or violent behavior. If this is true, they will also examine the likelihood of the violent or harmful behavior repeating itself in the future.
The doctor will check the following areas:
- Lymph nodes
- External genitalia
In addition, they will conduct a blood test and chest X-ray to check for syphilis. It is important to let your doctor know if you are pregnant. This is because pregnant women are exempted from x-rays since the rays could harm the pregnancy.
Therefore, if you are pregnant, the consular office or embassy will likely postpone the medical exam process until it is safe to test.
The doctor will test your urine for gonorrhea if you are at least 15 years old. A urine test is required whether or not you live in the U.S.
Tips on Passing the Immigration Medical Examination
It is also possible to increase your chances of passing the medical exam for a green card. Here are some quick tips to guide you:
Suppose you had any contagious disease outlined by the USCIS as grounds for inadmissibility. In that case, you may pass the exam if you prove that you received treatment and have since been cured. To do this, you will need to provide medical records of your test results and treatment. For best results, obtain a statement from your doctor confirming you have been cured of the disease or it is being managed.
The same applies if you have a history of drug abuse or mental health problems. Again, you will need to prove that you received treatment.
Lastly, you may still be able to travel to the United States even if the USCIS denies your application based on health-related reasons. All you will need to do is file a ‘waiver of inadmissibility’ with the USCIS.
This waiver requests the U.S. government to reconsider your application and grant your petition even though you do not meet certain eligibility requirements. After that, the USCIS will submit your request to the CDC.
Then, depending on the health issue, the CDC might advise the USCIS to allow you to travel to the U.S. However, this approval will likely come with some terms and conditions you must honor upon your arrival in the U.S.
For example, you may be required to seek treatment within a specific period of time after arriving in the United States if you have a communicable disease. Approval of the ‘waiver of inadmissibility’ is not usually guaranteed.
Therefore, if your petition has been rejected due to health concerns and you intend to apply for a waiver, consider hiring an experienced immigration attorney to help you with the process.
You may need to pay legal fees but it will be worth it. This because immigration attorneys know how to navigate such complex processes, increasing your chances of obtaining favorable results.
After the Exam
Once the exam is complete, the doctor will fill out Form I-693, detailing the exam results, and then sign it. Ensure you obtain a copy of the results before they seal the envelope. You will then be required to take the sealed envelope containing the completed form with you to the interview with the immigration official.
Bear in mind that the USCIS will not accept the exam results if the envelope has been tampered with or altered in any way.
Green Card Medical Exam FAQs
Do I Still Need to Complete the Exam if I Am on My Period?
Yes, you will still need to take the exam even if you are on your period. Remember to let the doctor know that you are on your period. They will provide the extra care and support you need to complete the process successfully.
Note that you should also let the doctor know if you are pregnant. This is because certain tests, such as X-rays, can harm pregnancies. When you inform your doctor about the pregnancy, you will need to reschedule your appointment to a safer time.
Where Do I Find Medical Exam for Green Card Near Me?
The best way to find the nearest location to take the medical exam for a green card is by using the Find a Doctor tool on the USCIS website. All you need to do is provide your zip code or address in the search bar.
What is the USCIS Medical Exam Cost 2022?
The USCIS does not have control over the cost of the green card medical exam. Before booking an appointment with a doctor, ensure you find out how much they will charge for the test.
Who is a USCIS Civil Surgeon?
Also known as a panel physician, a USCIS civil surgeon is a doctor approved by the U.S. government to conduct medical exams required during the green card process.
Can I File a Complaint Against a Doctor Designated By the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services?
Yes. You may be able to file a complaint against a USCIS doctor for different reasons. According to the USCIS, the government agency might revoke a doctor’s civil surgeon designation if they:
- Fail to comply with government policies.
- Fail to fulfill their responsibilities as panel physicians.
- Conceals or falsifies any material to obtain the civil surgeon designation.
- Falsifies or conceals any information or fact on Form I-693
- Fails to maintain a valid license to practice.
- Fails to meet the professional qualifications of a USCIS civil surgeon.
Can My Personal Doctor Conduct the Green Card Medical Exam?
No. The USCIS will not accept medical exam results from your personal doctor unless they have been designated by the USCIS.
Does the USCIS Test for HIV During the Green Card Medical Examination?
No. The USCIS no longer tests for HIV during the exam. Therefore, having HIV does not disqualify you from immigrating to the United States. Remember that the USCIS doctor is not required to treat you for any medical condition you may have.
They are also not required to provide medical advice. If you recently found out that you have HIV, speak with your primary health care provider to discuss a treatment plan as soon as possible.