Now more than ever, global health at the individual level has become a central conversation in regards to immigration. As we waver in and out of pandemic waves and variants, countries want to ensure they are protecting their residents and economies by avoiding health risks. In the code of federal regulations, these requirements are known as health-related grounds of inadmissibility.
Common health concerns that can result in inadmissibility include, but are not limited to:
Communicable disease – this list is evolving as influenced by the CDC, but typically includes cholera, plague, smallpox, and yellow fever, leprosy, tuberculosis, and any novel or pandemic flu. A full and current list can be viewed here.
A harmful physical disorder or mental disorder – harmful behavior is defined as psychological or physical injury to the applicant or another person, a threat to health or safety , or damage to major property. One way these can be shown is if the applicant has a history of violent crimes, misdemeanors, or felonies. Mental illness alone without any harmful behavior will not make you inadmissible.
Incomplete vaccination records – vaccines have long been government mandated both in the U.S. and abroad to control and eradicate infectious disease. The USCIS website has a comprehensive list of vaccines that must be completed by applicants, including the recent addition of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Pregnancy – while pregnancy alone is not an automatic denial, the government is hesitant about birth tourism, especially since citizenship is immediately granted for babies born in the U.S. A 2020 statute specifically applies to the B-2 tourist visa to limit birth tourism, requiring pregnant women to show convincing and valid reasons why they plan on traveling to the U.S.
Drug abuse and/or addiction – this area has very little room for error. In fact, anything beyond one non-medical use of a controlled substance will be considered drug abuse in the eyes of USCIS. A potential applicant with any drug or alcohol related arrests or convictions on your record, is advised to consult with an immigration attorney before applying for a U.S. visa or residency. Alternatively, this type of personal record may also make you inadmissible on criminal or controlled substance trafficking grounds.
How health issues are reported
Health-related issues are typically discovered when immigration officials review either self-reported answers to questions about your health, in your visa or green card application forms, the results of your immigration medical examination (required for every immigrant—that is, permanent resident—visa or green card, and for some temporary visitors), criminal and court records you submit with your application, and any other documents or information you provide at interviews and inspections.
The law around visas and immigration is fluid, and it is best to enlist the expertise of an immigration attorney so that you are adequately prepared for your visa or green card application.