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Medical Waiver

What Are Medical Waivers?

A medical waiver is a document that allows a prospective immigrant to regain admissible status to the U.S. Medical waivers are most often required after an immigrant has failed to clear their medical examination.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) oversees the administration of physical and mental health examinations for aliens, refugees, and status adjusters seeking legal permanent resident status. These examinations are intended to identify applicants with “inadmissible health-related conditions.” If such a condition is detected, the individual is deemed inadmissible to the U.S. and turned over to the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Not every person who is sick at the time of application will be denied access to the U.S., and not every healthy person is guaranteed to pass their health inspection. According to the CDC, some reasons for health-related inadmissibility include:

  • Infection with a spreadable disease that threatens public health
  • Failure to prove vaccination
  • Possession of a physical or mental condition associated with harmful behavior
  • Evidence of drug abuse

In order to determine whether an individual has any of these conditions, all immigrants, refugees, foreign fiances, and specific nonimmigrant groups are required to be examined by a medical panel. This examination can take place within the U.S. but often occurs outside the boundaries of the country by a U.S.-approved panel. Immigrants seeking an adjustment of status must be examined by a U.S. Civil Surgeon.

The examination consists of a physical exam, blood test or x-ray for tuberculosis, urine tests for gonorrhea, and a blood test for syphilis. At the same time, the individual must also present evidence of receiving the vaccinations recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). However, with a valid USCIS Form I-601 or I-602, this examination may be waived.

Key Takeaways

  • A USCIS Form I-601 or I-602 medical waiver allows an immigrant or status adjuster to ignore a medical infection or condition that would make them otherwise ineligible to enter the U.S.
  • A medical waiver will be required for any immigrant, refugee, or alien fiance found to have failed their panel-lead medical examination.
  • Medical waivers can allow certain individuals to waive disqualifying circumstances based on infection, lack of vaccination, or possession of a potentially dangerous medical condition.
  • If you are concerned about your medical examination or believe that you may qualify for a medical waiver, an experienced Immigration Law attorney may be able to provide advice and advocacy in order to improve the outcome of your case by utilizing experience and expert knowledge.

Medical Waivers and Immigration Law

Medical waivers are part of the USCIS’ Form I-601. This form has a specific section devoted to waivers issued under Immigration and Nationality Act section 212(g) for health-related inadmissibility. According to Form I-601, there are three categories of waiver based on why the immigrant is inadmissible.

The first waiver category is for immigrants denied based on having an infectious disease. This category includes quarantinable diseases, diseases declared as a public health emergency by the WHO, and other common diseases that cause risks to public health. A non-exhaustive list of some common examples of these diseases include:

  • Cholera
  • COVID-19
  • Diphtheria
  • Ebola
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy)
  • Infectious tuberculosis
  • Lassa
  • Marburg
  • Measles
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome
  • Plague
  • Polio
  • SARS
  • Smallpox
  • Syphilis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Yellow fever

For individuals infected with these conditions, their application will be declared inadmissible, and they will need a medical waiver in order to enter the country. According to form I-601, two situations may allow a medical waiver to be granted even if the petitioner has a communicable disease: family connections and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

If the applicant with the communicable disease is the spouse, parent, unmarried child, or unmarried lawfully adopted child of a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien with a visa, they may be allowed a medical waiver. In addition, the fiance of a U.S. citizen or the fiance’s child may also qualify for a medical waiver in these circumstances.

A medical waiver may also be issued to a VAWA self-petitioner with a communicable disease. In cases where the individual has Class A Tuberculosis, a local health department physician in the applicant’s home country must provide additional statements and forms.

The second category of waivers is for immigrants who were declared inadmissible for lack of vaccinations. This waiver is exclusively for immigrants who are exempt from vaccination due to religious beliefs or moral convictions. In order to qualify for this waiver, the immigrant must establish that they are opposed to vaccination in any form, that objection is based on religious or moral convictions, and that the conviction is sincere. 

The third and final category is for those immigrants who were declared inadmissible due to a physical or mental disorder that could result in “harmful behavior.” Harmful behavior is defined as any behavior that does, has, or will pose a danger to the property, safety, or welfare of others.

In addition to form I-601, applicants seeking to waive their physical or mental condition must also submit a complete medical history along with a report that details:

  • A description of the disorder and the behavior that is or may be harmful 
  • Any hospitalizations, institutionalizations, or other treatment for the condition
  • Findings regarding the applicant’s current physical condition, including any applicable or pertinent diagnostic tests
  • Findings regarding the applicant’s disorder, including a detailed prognosis specifying possible harmful behaviors that may arise or have arisen.
  • Recommendations of treatments that are reasonably available in the U.S. that will be expected to reduce the likelihood of future harmful behavior.

There may be more assurances required by the U.S. Public Health Service during the review process.

If a medical waiver is granted, the visa process or adjustment of status continues as usual. If the medical waiver is denied, the immigrant remains inadmissible, and the legal entry process ends.

Bottom Line

If you are an immigrant looking to use a medical waiver to bypass an otherwise disqualifying medical condition, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advise you and advocate on your behalf to get you the best possible outcome for your case.

Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can explore your alternative options within the immigration system as well as present your case in the most compelling light possible and deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy as well as the obscure functions of immigration court.

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