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DOS Announces Shorter Validity of Medical Exams

On February 15, 2015, the US State Department issued a cable announcing that starting March 1, 2015, medical exam results will only be valid for six months, or three months depending upon exam results for tuberculosis (TB) or HIV.  These changes actually come from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which regulates immigrants’ medical exams. Previously, medical exams were good for up to a year for non-TB results.  This means applicants for immigrant visas are going to need repeated medical exams, which adds to the overall cost for immigration, delays in processing and aggravation.  Typically, the medical exam is scheduled just before the visa interview, in which case, most medical exams are good through the interview and the applicant’s arrival in the US.  However, anyone with visa admissibility issues, requiring legal opinions from the Visa Office, completed security checks, “administrative processing” delays, or needing USCIS waivers are bound to need additional medical exams after their initial consular interview because these procedures can take longer than six months.  On February 6, 2015, the State Department updated the Foreign Affairs Manual with more detail about these issues.

Medical exams are required for permanent residence immigrant visa applicants in determining whether a person is inadmissible due to certain medical or mental health conditions involving “communicable diseases of public significance” and/or current or past “physical and mental disorders with associated harmful behaviors and substance-related disorders.”  In addition, another ground of inadmissibility pertains to lack of required vaccines.  For some conditions, a waiver of inadmissibility is required. There are no waivers available for alcoholics and drug abusers/addicts seeking to immigrate permanently, though in theory, a nonimmigrant waiver may be sought.  Besides the health grounds of inadmissibility, there is another ground called “likely to become a public charge.” This has to do with the likelihood the applicant will require public benefits in order to care for their condition. New immigrants are generally barred from public assistance for the first five years of their residence in the U.S. Medical exams are also required in some instances for nonimmigrants seeking to come to the US temporarily.

In 2010, HIV was removed from the list of disqualifying communicable diseases.  However, if someone tests positive for HIV, or any other contagious disease for that matter, the applicant will need to show that he or she has sufficient funds or qualifies for health insurance to cover the cost of treatment so that public benefits will not be needed. See the Foreign Affairs Manual, 9 FAM 40.11, N9.1 and 9.2.

This new policy to shorten the validity of the medical exam contrasts with the USCIS policy announced last summer that made medical exams valid for one year from date of submitting adjustment of status applications in the USA. However, in the context of these cases, at least out here in Washington, it is taking longer to get an interview on adjustment applications (six to seven months from date of filing). Therefore, even adjustment applicants may need to get their medical exams updated if adjudication is going to take a year or more in total, since many cases are continued for one reason or another. It is also possible that USCIS may change its policy to be consistent with DOS, given that the CDC regulates adjustment related medical exams as well.