Obtaining treatment for mental health issues is much more common and less stigmatizing than it used to be – not just in the U.S. but throughout many other parts of the world. However, if you have a family member in another country who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder, you may be concerned that they won’t qualify for a visa to enter the U.S.
Visa applicants need to answer many questions related to both their physical and mental health and be truthful in their answers. In most cases, acknowledging their diagnosis won’t prevent someone from obtaining a visa.
Under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy, a mental (or physical) disorder is only grounds for inadmissibility if there is “associated harmful behavior that is likely to recur or lead to other harmful behavior.”
How do immigration officials define “mental disorder”?
Many people seek help from mental health professionals for a wide variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean that they have what USCIS would consider a mental disorder. The agency uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and other sources to determine if a person has a “currently accepted psychiatric diagnosis.”
It should be noted that USCIS includes alcohol use disorders in its list of conditions that could make a person inadmissible for a visa. Again, however, the disorder would need to be accompanied by harmful behavior – such as drunk driving arrests – to prevent a person from obtaining a visa. USCIS is concerned with, in its words, behavior that “may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the applicant or others.”
Each visa applicant’s situation is unique
Even if someone has a diagnosed mental disorder that caused them at some point to put themselves or someone else in danger, those making the decisions will look at the totality of the situation. That can include how long ago any harmful behavior occurred, how serious it was, and any treatment the person is receiving to prevent further incidents.
If you’re concerned about a family member’s possible inability to obtain a visa or you believe immigration officials have wrongfully labeled them as inadmissible, then this may warrant you taking further legal action.