Fear of an Ebola outbreak in the United States renewed the debate over how open the country should be to people who are sick. Some people are prevented from immigrating to the United States because they are infected with a contagious disease, but illness is not typically the reason people are denied legal status.
All people who wish to immigrate to the United States (and people currently in the United States who want to adjust their status to permanent resident) must undergo a medical examination by a doctor certified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Thinking about the medical exam often causes applicants undue stress because very few people are in perfect health. The United States does not, however, turn people away for minor issues such as the common cold.
The CDC is in charge of determining which diseases prevent people from being able to immigrate. Checking their website is the best way to learn which illnesses are currently considered disqualifying.
People who fail the medical exam because they have a disease that is on the CDC’s list are not permanently banned from entering the United States. Some of the diseases on the list can be cured, so reapplication after treatment is possible. Applicants who fail the medical examination can also apply for a waiver.
Waivers are granted on a case by case basis. The CDC reviews the waiver application and the applicant’s medical records, then makes a recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security, which makes the final decision. If the waiver is approved, the person is allowed to come to the United States.
It is important to keep in mind that the medical examination is just one small part of the application process. It is rare for applicants who are otherwise eligible to be denied entry to the country or a chance of status based on illness alone.
An experienced immigration attorney can help an applicant determine if they are likely to have difficulty passing the medical examination and what options are available if the applicant does fail the exam.