A close family member wants to apply for a visa to move to the U.S. to join you. However, they’ve been treated for a mental health issue. You’re proud of them for getting the help they needed, but you may have heard that this can prevent a person from immigrating to the U.S. What is the truth?
Mental disorders, as they’re called by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), are far better understood and less stigmatized both in the U.S. and in many other countries than they used to be. While people who apply for U.S. visas do have to answer questions and sometimes provide documentation related to their mental health (as well as their physical health), being truthful about a mental health issue is by no means grounds for automatic denial.
There must be “harmful behavior”
The USCIS recognizes mental disorders that are included as a “currently accepted psychiatric diagnosis” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or similar source. A mental disorder only affects admissibility to the U.S. if it’s associated with harmful behavior. This is “behavior that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the applicant or others.”
Substance abuse or addiction, including alcohol abuse, falls under the USCIS list of mental as well as physical disorders. That means relevant associated harmful behavior could include arrests for driving under the influence. Again, the USCIS will look at whether the issue is in the past and unlikely to reoccur. However, past arrests could potentially disqualify potential applicants on criminal grounds.
If you believe that a family member is going to experience challenges obtaining a visa or if they’ve already been denied, it’s wise to seek the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney to determine what options are available for bringing them into the U.S.