February 10, 2022

Your Guide to the Green Card Physical Exam for US Immigration

Applying for a green card (either within or outside the United States) to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) can be a lengthy and complicated process full of paperwork and extended waiting periods. However, you may not know that the process also involves a specialized medical examination that’s required for green card application approval. 

While failing this physical exam is rare, it can be stressful. By thoroughly understanding the process and knowing common mistakes to avoid, you can avoid the delay or denial of your application. Let’s look at what you need to know about the green card medical exam.

Related: Immigration Interview Questions You Need to Know

What is the USCIS Physical exam? 

A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) medical exam– also frequently referred to as an immigration medical exam– is essential for the immigration process. A government-authorized doctor must conduct the exam- either a civil surgeon if you’re applying for a green card from inside the country or a panel physician authorized by the State Department if you’re applying from outside the country. The medical exam consists of several parts, including;

  • A medical history and immunization record review
  • A physical evaluation (including a blood and urine test)
  • A mental evaluation
  • A drug and alcohol screening
  • Several tests for various illnesses and diseases 

The doctor will also ask questions regarding any current prescription medication you’re taking, along with information on your past and present drug and alcohol use. 

What is the Exam Used For?

lawyer looking at Physical exam paperwork

The immigration medical exam is done with the intent to help U.S. officials screen out applicants who have certain health conditions or an inability to work. Some of the most common health conditions that can result in a denial of someone’s green card application include;

Related: When Do You Need an Immigration Lawyer?

How and When Should I Schedule the Physical Exam?

The process of scheduling your immigrant physical exam is different depending on if you’re applying inside or outside the United States.

If You’re Applying Within the United States

Those who apply for a green card from within the U.S. have two options when it comes to scheduling their immigration physical exam;

Option 1

Your first option (typically called “concurrent filing”) involves scheduling your exam when you begin the green card application process and then including the exam results when you submit your application. If you select this option, your exam results form (I-693) must be signed by a civil surgeon within 60 days of submitting your application.

Option 2

Your second option is to schedule your physical exam after filing your green card application. If you select this particular option, you’ll need to submit your exam results to either the USCIS or bring them with you to your green card interview. If you select this option, your exam results will be valid for up to four years from when your doctor signed the exam form. 

Please note that the documents are usually only valid for two years from when the doctor signs them. However, the USCIS has temporarily extended the validity to account for processing delays resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Whether you select option one or two, you’ll want to contact the USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 or visit the Find a Doctor webpage to locate an authorized physician in your local area and schedule your exam appointment. Be sure to let the doctor know you are specifically attempting to schedule an exam for the immigration process. 

If You’re Appling Outside the United States

Woman filling paperwork for Physical

Individuals applying for a green card from outside the United States are only permitted to schedule their medical exam once they receive their green card interview appointment letter. They will then need to search for their local U.S. embassy or consulate to find a list of doctors authorized to perform the exam in their particular country. Exam results provided in this situation will be valid for up to six months. 

Choosing a Doctor for Your Physical Exam

Not just any doctor can perform the physical exam. So, you should ask to ensure your chosen physician can. 

If you are applying in the U.S., your practitioner must be a civil surgeon designated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You can use the USCIS Find a Civil Surgeon tool to search for a doctor that meets these requirements. If you are applying from abroad, you must use a panel physician the U.S. Department of State has authorized.

Regardless of your choice, make sure to ask about the doctor’s availability, as a long wait to get an appointment can delay your application. In addition, ask about any fees and if they accept your health insurance.

How Should You Prepare for the Green Card Medical Exam?

To prepare for your immigration physical exam effectively, there are several documents and items you’ll need to collect so you can bring them to the physician performing the exam. You’ll need to bring;

  • Payment for the medical exam
  • A government-issued photo ID
  • Your health insurance card (if you possess one)
  • Form I-693 (if you’re applying from within the U.S.)
  • Your green card interview appointment letter (if you’re applying from outside the U.S.)
  • A letter from your regular doctor that outlines any medical problems you may have
  • A copy of your medical history (including your immunization records)
  • Copies of any previously taken chest X-rays

Please note that if you fail to bring certain documents, you may be unable to complete the exam. For instance, your green card interview appointment letter is required, and the doctor will not perform your exam unless you bring this. Double-check your documents before heading to the appointment.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to the Biometrics Appointment

Form I-693

If you apply from within the U.S., you need Form I-693 (“Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record”) for your appointment. This is where your civil surgeon will note the results of your physical exam. There is no fee for filing this form. But you still need to pay the physical exam fee.

Many offices will have copies of the form. However, you need to have the latest version as USCIS occasionally updates the forms, and offices may forget to replace them with the new version. Unfortunately, submitting an expired version of the form will lead it to being rejected, and you will need to return to the clinic. Therefore, it’s always best to download the newest version from the USCIS website so you can make sure it is up to date.  

Before you go to the appointment, you can fill out your portion to save some time. But, do not sign the form until you are instructed to by the civil surgeon. They will need to complete their potion when your exam is finished.

What Happens During Your Green Card Physical Exam?

While the stakes are high for passing this exam, remember most people pass. However, the exam is different from the routine exams you’re used to. You will not receive a pass or fail grade at the end either.

Most green card medical exams take about two hours. Your doctor will ask you general and specific questions about your health. They’ll also discuss your medical and immunization history. During this time, you’ll get a basic physical exam.

Your doctor will be paying attention to conditions that fall under certain categories. To do this, they may conduct a few tests related to the following:

  • Communicable diseases
  • Drug addiction or abuse
  • Mental or physical disorders that are associated with dangerous behavior
  • Conditions that prevent you from supporting yourself

Communicable Diseases

Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and syphilis will be tested for. Testing for other communicable diseases is relatively straightforward. You will need a blood test for syphilis and a urine test for gonorrhea. This applies to all applicants aged 15 or older within the U.S. and abroad.

If you are applying within the U.S., any applicants aged two or older will need an IGRA tuberculosis test. The tuberculin skin test is not an option. You must return for additional testing if the tests reveal signs of tuberculosis. However, in most cases, you will not need to return to get your results. If you are applying from abroad from a “heavily tuberculosis-burdened country” and are aged 15 or older, you will need to have a chest x-ray. Make sure to follow any instructions you receive from your doctor or U.S. consulate or embassy about tuberculosis testing.

Alcohol and Drug Screening

Your provider will ask about your prescription drugs and previous and current alcohol and drug use. You can read more about the guidance for civil surgeons (applying within the U.S.) and for panel physicians (applying from abroad) to learn about screening procedures.

Vaccination Screening

Your doctor will make sure you have received all required vaccines, including COVID-19. If you are missing any, your doctor can usually administer these during your physical exam. If not, you are required to get them before your green card interview.

For Female Applicants

You will be required to complete the physical exam even if you are menstruating. Pregnant people are also still required to complete the chest x-ray if applicable to them. However, you must be given additional protection and give prior consent to your doctor.

If you are pregnant, you may postpone until after giving birth, but you still need to have the x-ray before:

  • Entering the U.S. (applying from abroad)
  • Completing a green card application (applying within the U.S.)

After Your Immigration Physical Exam

doctor who does Physical  exams smiling

If you’re applying from within the U.S., the civil surgeon will have you sign the exam results form and give you the results in a sealed envelope (do not open the envelope or break the seal). You may be given a copy of the results, or you can ask for a copy before they seal the envelope. These are the only ones you can open.

If you’re applying from outside the U.S., the doctor will either give you the envelope or send it directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate. 

Common Health-Related Denial Reasons

The doctor that conducts your physical exam is trying to ensure you don’t pose a health risk to current residents. There are a few reasons you may be denied a green card based on your exam. Many of these stem from current, untreated conditions.

If you currently have an infectious, untreated case of syphilis, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, or leprosy, your application will be denied. If you have tested positive for these in the past, make sure to bring proof of your medical records showing you have been successfully treated.

If you are currently abusing alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs, you will not be able to get a green card. For a history of drug abuse, you may need to take a drug test and/or certify that you completed a treatment program. Be sure to bring proof of treatment.

Drunk driving is a common cause of denial under mental illness with a threat or history of violence. If there is a concern you may harm yourself or others, you will need proof you are being treated.

People with poor health that prevents them from working, such as those with fatal or serious degenerative diseases, may be denied. If this is the case for you, make sure to ask for a letter from your regular doctor explaining how your life and work are affected and how your condition is being controlled.

If your application is denied for these or other health-related reasons, you can apply for “forgiveness” with a waiver of inadmissibility. Working with an immigration attorney through these steps can help ensure you have the right documentation for this process.

Reasons You Should Not Be Denied

If you have a simple cold during the physical exam, you will not be denied based on this. In addition, those who are HIV-positive or have a well-managed yet chronic condition such as heart disease or diabetes should not be denied. If you have previously had but been cured of a communicable disease, you should not be denied based on this, but you may need documentation to prove this.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About The USCIS Medical Exam

  1. How long does the USCIS medical exam take?

The exam takes between 1-10 days to complete due to the blood and urine testing. The process may take longer if any of your tests come back positive. To help ensure that the process takes as little time as possible, please ensure you bring all of the documents detailed above when you attend your exam appointment.

  1. How much does the USCIS physical exam cost?

The cost of the medical exam can vary depending on several factors, such as your location and medical provider. Individuals have reported paying anywhere from $100 and $500, but the typical exam cost is usually around $200

  1. Can I eat before the USCIS medical exam?

You can eat before the USCIS medical exam, as the blood tests involved don’t require you to fast beforehand. 

Final Thoughts and Considerations About the Green Card Physical Exam

While the U.S. immigration physical exam is a serious step in obtaining permanent residency, it doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Make sure you schedule your green card medical exam correctly and bring the correct documents to the appointment. Working with an experienced immigration law firm can help you navigate the process as smoothly as possible.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to explore the contents of this article and educate yourself on the various ins and outs of the USCIS medical exam. For more information on different parts of the immigration, green card, or U.S. citizenship application process, please consider reaching out and booking a consultation with our team of trusted legal experts here at Brudner Law today if you live in or near Orange County area. Also, don’t forget to explore our wide range of expertly crafted educational resources to help further expand your knowledge on critical elements regarding the immigration process here in the United States.

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