Guide to the Green Card Medical Exam

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • Yes, a medical exam is required when applying for a green card.
  • The exam is conducted by approved doctors and aims to determine the applicant’s fitness for citizenship in the United States.
  • The examination screens for specific diseases, preconditions, and vaccinations to ensure the overall health of the applicant.
  • Certain diseases can make an individual inadmissible, while non-contagious illnesses may still allow entry.

The U.S. green card application is a tedious process, with multiple forms and appointments. One requirement is a medical examination. In this article, we will explain the importance of a green card medical exam and why it is essential to get it right.

Is There a Medical Exam When Getting a Green Card?

The simple answer to this question is: Yes, you a required to take a medical exam when applying for a green card. Part of the process determines if the candidate is fit for citizenship in the United States of America. A medical exam is required for both adults and children applying for a green card. However, the metrics of evaluation are different for each age group.

The medical examination cannot be conducted by just any physician. Only medical professionals on the government’s list of approved doctors are eligible to conduct the examination. The green card applicant needs to get this medical examination done at their own cost and discretion.

What Is the Doctor Looking for During a Green Card Medical Exam?

Medical examinations for green card applications look different than a routine check-up with your local physician. During the medical exam, the physician’s job is to screen the patient for certain diseases, preconditions, and vaccinations to ensure the overall fitness of the applicant.

Diseases that can deter an individual from entering the United States include gonorrhea, Hansen’s disease or infectious leprosy, active tuberculosis, and syphilis at a contagious stage. In addition, if the candidate is seeking an immigrant visa, the disease list expands to include any diseases that require quarantine, like COVID-19, and any other conditions that can cause public health emergencies within the United States.

If the applicant suffers illnesses that are not contagious or harmful to the general population, they can be allowed entry into the country. These include diseases like cardiovascular problems, cancer, and mental illness. However, the candidate may be deemed inadmissible if they require government assistance due to a lack of personal medical insurance.

It is worth noting that refugees and asylum seekers living in the United States do not require vaccinations until they apply for a green card.

Required Vaccinations

The USCIS policy manual contains a list of vaccinations that a green card applicant requires before entering the country or even applying for a green card. This is the 2021 list for all the required vaccinations:

  • Tetanus
  • Pertussis
  • Diphtheria
  • Polio
  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Rubella
  • Rotavirus
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Varicella

It is important to note that some of these vaccinations are age-specific. Also, this vaccination table can be updated based on information on diseases that become preventable by vaccination.

Applicants should bring their vaccination reports as evidence of prior vaccinations to the medical exam. The applicant must provide a full English translation of the vaccination sheet if the original document is not printed in English.

If the applicant is behind on certain vaccinations, the doctor in charge will give them the first dose during the exam. However, the vaccination process depends on the age and suitability of the person. Further information on vaccine suitability for various age groups can be found in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services policy manual, Chapter 9. This is important if the applicant being examined is a child or an infant, as the vaccination policy will be different.

What Happens During the Green Card Medical Exam?

The medical exam starts with the doctor matching the patient’s identity with their passport or other official identity documents. This is to make sure the doctor examines the individual on the passport and not a healthier impostor.

Next, the doctor checks the vaccination record of the individual. This check ensures that the individual is up to date with all the required vaccinations. The purpose of this is not to provide a general assessment of the patient’s health but to ensure they have met the medical criteria set by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services before entering the country.

The doctor or the medical staff will ask the patient to produce a medical history record during the appointment. The doctor will review the medical records to see the number of times the patient has been to the hospital, if they have been admitted to an institution for any mental illnesses or chronic physical ailments, and if the applicant has been involved in a severe accident leading to sickness or disability and difficulty in returning to a normal state of functioning.

The doctor will also question the applicant on their use of alcohol or psychoactive drugs. They can also ask about any history of harmful and aggressive behavior or psychiatric episodes that haven’t been documented previously. The doctor can ask for previous police, military, employment, and school records to find any plausible history of aggressive and harmful behavior alluding to a mental or physical disorder. This record can also reflect any disability or illness caused by traumatic events.

Next, the hospital will take X-rays of the chest, draw blood samples, and review other treatment records to check for tuberculosis. Physical examination includes the doctor checking the candidate’s cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, pulmonary, and neuropsychiatric health and assess if they have any symptoms of diseases that make them inadmissible to the country. The candidate must also expect a physical examination of the body, including the face, ears, eyes, nose, throat, heart, lungs, lymph nodes, skin, genitalia, and other extremities. Mental health is examined via observation and assessment of intelligence, comprehension, behavior, mood, and judgment-making capabilities.

It is essential to prepare for this medical examination. Applicants should talk to the doctor before the examination and refrain from eating to maintain the standard of the blood sample. If the candidate is sick before the medical exam, they can go back to their doctor for treatment and defer their immigration medical examination. If the first medical examiner cannot decide the medical fitness of the candidate, they can be referred to another doctor for further testing.

Once the test is done, the doctor fills out a form with the results and observations. This information is put in a sealed envelope and delivered to the consulate or the USCIS. The candidate cannot open it. In many cases, the doctors send the results directly to the consulate and not to the candidate.

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The medical examination process takes a significant amount of time and preparation. While it may seem easy and routine, the medical examination can become a significant reason an applicant doesn’t obtain a green card. Therefore, the medical examination needs to be taken seriously. The applicant should get their documents in order and research the medical examination process before arriving for the doctor’s appointment. For further information, applicants can consult their immigration lawyer or personal physician.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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