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When can a mental health issue keep a loved one out of the U.S.?

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2022 | Family Immigration

You have a close family member – perhaps a parent or sibling – who would like to immigrate to the U.S. to join you. However, you know that they will need to answer questions about their physical and mental health. 

You’re concerned because they are taking medication for a mental disorder and maybe getting therapy as well. The condition is under control, but could it prevent them from getting a visa? 

When does a mental disorder make someone inadmissible?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only makes a mental disorder grounds for inadmissibility if it results in “harmful behavior.” That is defined as “behavior that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the applicant or others.” A past mental disorder won’t be grounds for denial of a visa unless it’s determined that there’s a good chance that it will present itself again.

Whether a condition is a mental disorder is determined by whether it’s listed as such in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or similar source. It’s important to know that the USCIS considers substance abuse, including alcoholism, to be a mental disorder. However, it would need to have been diagnosed as such. 

That doesn’t mean that someone who has struggled with addiction or alcoholism is automatically going to be denied entrance. However, if they have a criminal record linked to their problem, such as multiple DUIs where they or others were injured, that would be considered “harmful behavior.”

Don’t lose hope. Seek guidance

Don’t rule out your loved one’s chances of getting a visa because they’ve had a mental health issue. That’s particularly true if they’re now getting the appropriate treatment and they don’t have a criminal record associated with it. 

Of course, neither you nor they should lie or omit information on the application and supporting documents or in interviews. Your best course of action if you have questions or if you believe you will need some help bringing a family member into the country is to seek experienced legal guidance.