A guide to USCIS doctors and what they do

Ever wonder what immigration civil surgeons do? This article intends to guide you about what US Citizenship and Immigration Services civil surgeons and panel physicians are and what they do.

Civil surgeons are doctors who evaluate immigrants, particularly those applying for permanent resident status, adjustment of status, or certain visas. They are certified doctors with at least four years of experience in their chosen field.

Kindly note that outside of immigration physical examinations, a civil surgeon may or may not specialize in doing surgery. These examinations don’t include surgery.

The medical exam includes communicable disease tests; COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines; and mental and physical assessments. The USCIS won’t accept any medical examination results not performed by authorized civil surgeons and panel physicians.

The doctor providing the exam is responsible for ensuring that the exam meets all the rules set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To operate as a civil surgeon, doctors must be approved by the USCIS. But what do civil surgeons do and what expectations should you have for these USCIS–certified doctors?

Types of immigration doctors

Remember only two types of doctors can perform the green card medical exam: civil surgeons and panel physicians. The best option for you depends on where you’re applying from.

  • If you’re applying from within the United States, you’ll meet with a civil surgeon who has been designated by USCIS. Civil surgeon need to complete form i-693 (Report of medical examination and vaccination record).
  • If you’re applying from another country, you’ll meet with a local panel physician approved by the US Department of State. Panel physicians need to complete form DS-3025.

Roles of a civil surgeon

An applicant needs to undergo a medical examination depending on the immigration benefit they want to have. Remember that a USCIS Civil Surgeon is the only accredited physician to do the immigration medical examination or green card medical exam for US-based applicants. 

Civil surgeons need to examine the green card applicant comprehensively. The examination may include :

  • A thorough examination of a person’s medical history including hospitalizations, diseases, drug usage, psychological issues, and unstable behavior
  • A review of other data, such as police reports or school records, that may provide additional health-related information
  • A physical and mental exam to detect serious illnesses
  • Vaccination administration

Civil surgeons will not treat any health condition identified during the immigration medical examination. If necessary, immigration applicants should consult a doctor following the exam.

The USCIS requires civil surgeons to look for Class A and B conditions.

Applicants with Class A conditions, such as the following, aren’t eligible for acceptance to the United States:

  • Infectious diseases of public health concern, such as tuberculosis, leprosy, or syphilis
  • Medical examination and vaccination records are missing for ages 10 and above
  • Mental health conditions with a history of destructive conduct that might resurface
  • Drug addiction

Class B conditions, on the other hand, include conditions that are challenging for the applicant, as these may affect their ability to work or function well. These conditions usually require medical attention. 

Please note that the USCIS civil surgeons don’t determine if the applicant is eligible for the green card. Civil surgeons are only responsible for the applicant’s medical exam.

How to become a civil surgeon?

If you want to become a civil surgeon, you must be a licensed doctor. You could either be a doctor of medicine degree (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree (DO). You must also fill out the Form I-910 Application for Civil Surgeon Designation.

To apply to become a US government civil surgeon, a certification requires a filing fee. The following may also need verification:

  • Citizenship or immigration status
  • Valid medical license
  • Certification of employment
  • Proof of medical degree

NOTE FROM USCIS: There’s a restricted number of blanket categories that may not require physicians to apply for civil surgeon status. See the USCIS Policy Manual’s Blanket Civil Surgeon Designation Guidance for additional details.

You may also visit the USCIS website to know more about the educational and seminar processes involved in becoming a civil surgeon. For all currently designated USCIS civil surgeons, you may send an inquiry to the following channels for specific concerns:

  1. For immigration-related questions, such as those related to Form I-693, which is a requirement for a form i-485 approval, send a message to USCIS at opscivilsurgeons@uscis.dhs.gov.
  2. For medical questions about the immigration medical examination or CDC’s Technical Instructions, send a message to CDC.
  3. For general inquiries concerning civil surgeon designation, the application process, or a pending application, call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283.  

Things to know about panel physicians

The local US embassy or consulate in a particular country appoints panel physicians. These are medically trained, licensed, and experienced medical professionals who practice abroad.

The consular or visa office has the most up–to–date list of panel physicians for every US Embassy or Consulate. The Department of State website has more information about the US embassy and consulate, including contact information for these divisions.

It’s the responsibility of panel physicians to make sure that the applicant is the actual person appearing for the medical examination. 

Here are other responsibilities of a panel physician:

  • The panel physician is in charge of the whole immigration medical exam and vaccination requirements. This includes obligatory x-ray and any laboratory tests.
  • The panel physician is in charge of reporting the results of all the required tests and consultations. They should also ensure that the medical reports are complete and forwarded immediately to the consular officer in a sealed envelope.
  • Panel physicians don’t determine if the applicant is eligible for the green card. They are only responsible for the applicant’s medical exam and for submitting forms to the consular officer.

For general inquiries concerning panel physician designation, you may visit CDC’s website for more information.

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Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered, construed or interpreted as legal or professional advice, guidance or opinion.

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