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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

The ABCs of Immigration - Inadmissibility - Health Grounds
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

One of the basic grounds of inadmissibility to the US is illness. There are four bases on which one can be deemed inadmissible because of health issues. First, those with communicable diseases that could have a significant impact on public health are inadmissible. Second, those who have failed to obtain certain vaccinations are inadmissible. Third, those with a physical or mental disability that could make them a danger to others are inadmissible. Finally, drug abusers and addicts are inadmissible. Waivers are available in most of these cases.

Historically, medical and health concerns have been one of the most important factors in determining whether a person will be allowed to immigrate to the US. One of the most famous images from Ellis Island is of hopeful immigrants lined up to be examined by doctors. Those who were deemed unfit were denied entry and returned home. While the procedure is no longer the same, people must still meet certain health requirements before being allowed to immigrate.

The government periodically issues is a list of afflictions that are considered communicable diseases that could pose a significant public health risk. These are chancroid (a sexually transmitted disease), gonorrhea (a sexually transmitted disease), granuloma inguinale (a sexually transmitted disease), HIV infection; infectious leprosy; lymphogranuloma venereum (a sexually transmitted disease); infectious syphilis and active tuberculosis.

The vaccination requirement was created in 1996 by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. The statute requires vaccinations for a number of diseases: mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, pertussis, influenza type B and hepatitis B.

The physical or mental disorder ground of inadmissibility is complicated and has a long history. Prior to the 1990 revision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, this ground encompassed disorders such as mental retardation, insanity, and sexual deviance. These are, of course, hardly precise terms, and in 1990 the statute was revised to reflect more modern medical knowledge. Also, in 1990 homosexuality was eliminated as a ground of inadmissibility. Under current law, to be inadmissible on this basis, the person must have a physical or mental disorder that causes behavior that may or has posed a threat to the property, safety, and welfare of the person or others. This determination must be made by a qualified physician and must be made in compliance with contemporary medical standards.

Drug abusers and addicts are inadmissible. Drug abuse is defined as the non-medical use of controlled substances that has not led to an addiction. Drug addiction is defined as the non-medical use of controlled substances that has resulted in a physical or psychological addiction.

Waivers are available for most of these grounds, and will be discussed next week.


About The Author

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defenderís office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com



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