Waivers for Inadmissibility Based on Health Grounds

You are inadmissible on the basis of a health condition if you’ve been found to fall under one of the following categories with:

  • Certain Communicable Diseases
  • Lack of Required Vaccinations
  • Certain Physical and Mental Health Disorders
  • Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse

If you’ve been found inadmissible because of one of the health grounds, you may be eligible for a waiver to gain admission to the United States. It is worth exploring this option.

Types of Waivers Based on the Health Ground

The type of waiver that you need depends on the specific health condition.


Certain communicable diseases that will pose a health risk to the public will also render a person inadmissible to the United States. Communicable diseases of public health significance include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Syphilis
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy)
  • Quarantinable diseases designated by any Presidential Executive Order. Current diseases include: cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers, severe acute respiratory syndromes, and influenza caused by novel or re-emergent influenza (pandemic flu).
  • Events that are reportable as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) to the World Health Organization (WHO) under the International Health Regulations (IHR) of 2005 (currently polio, smallpox, SARS, influenza, and other public health emergencies of international concern.)

Such diseases will be screened and detected in the immigration medical examination. Once detected, you will likely be rendered inadmissible. You would then need to apply for a waiver.

To be eligible for the waiver, you must be the spouse, parent, child, unmarried son or daughter, or minor unmarried lawfully adopted child of:

  • A U.S. citizen;
  • A person lawfully admitted for permanent residence;
  • A person who has been issued an immigrant visa;
  • Eligible for classification as a self-petitioning spouse or child; or
  • The fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen or the fiancé(e)’s child.

Once the family relationship is established, the consular officer must consult with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to determine whether or not a waiver should be granted (as a matter of discretion). In certain cases, the waiver may be granted if a bond is paid as well. This usually comes at the recommendation of the CDC. The officer forwards the waiver application (Form I-601) with the medical records and medical exam report. A favorable response from the CDC, is usually enough for the officer to grant a discretionary waiver. Unlike the other waivers which are discussed below, the applicant is not required to show proof of hardship to a U.S. qualifying relative. However, it is important that relevant information regarding the health related condition is included to support a favorable grant of the waiver.


The officer will review the medical exam to determine whether the applicant lacks required vaccinations. If the officer determines that the applicant has not met the requirement for certain vaccinations, he/she will determine whether the applicant is eligible for a type of waiver. There are three waivers. The officer will look at whether or not:

  • The applicant can receive the required vaccination or proof of the required vaccinations by the date of the officer’s decision (blanket waiver does not require a waiver form).
  • The civil surgeon or panel physician has certifies that such vaccination would not be appropriate because of medical reasons which are,
    • The vaccine is not age appropriate;
    • The vaccine is contraindicated;
    • There is an insufficient time interval to complete the vaccination series;
    • It is not the flu season;
    • The vaccine for the specific flu strain is no longer available.
  • The requirement of such a vaccination would be contrary to the applicant’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.

The first two waivers are called “blanket waivers” and don’t require an I-601 waiver form. Blanket waivers are also available for vaccine shortages but depends the CDC’s verification that there is a vaccination shortage. The third waiver is based on religious beliefs or moral convictions require an application, a fee and additional evidence. The granting of the waiver depends on whether the applicant establishes that the vaccination requirements would be contrary to his or her religious beliefs or moral convictions. The CDC does not need to review this waiver application based on moral convictions or religious beliefs. Rather, the immigration officer has to consider evidence that supports certain factors. To be eligible for this waiver:

  • The applicant must be opposed to all vaccinations in any form.
  • The objection must be based on religious beliefs or moral convictions.
  • The religious belief or moral conviction must be sincere.

Evidence which supports the above factors include, but are not limited to, a sworn affidavit from the applicant and affidavit from members of the congregation or individuals that are aware of the applicant’s beliefs.


The officer must consult with the CDC to determine whether such a waiver for the physical or mental health disorders should be granted. If the CDC responds with a recommendation to grant the waiver, the officer will likely grant the discretionary waiver. Keep in mind that the officer may set a condition for the applicant to pay a bond or seek medical care upon admission to the United States.


There is no waiver available for a current drug or alcohol abuser. If the medical examination shows drug or alcohol use, the applicant will likely be labeled a drug or alcohol abuser, rendering them inadmissible. However, if the applicant stops abusing drugs or alcohol and can prove remission through a new medical examination, they will be eligible for a waiver due to being in remission.
It is important to consult an immigration attorney to prepare the waiver. At ST Law, I use my advanced knowledge of the legal requirements as well as my experience with waivers to prepare a good waiver application to increase the chance of success in each case.

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