Foreign nationals may be inadmissible to the United States for a multitude of reasons, including health-related grounds, economic grounds, criminal grounds, moral grounds, violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act regarding entry or documentation, fraud or misrepresentations, security and related grounds, and other miscellaneous grounds. Waivers (pardons) of inadmissibility, however, are available to certain individuals based on familial relationships or for specific reasons. These waivers may be obtained in removal proceedings before the Immigration Judge, through the Department of Homeland Security at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or Customs and Border Protection, or through the Department of State at a consulate abroad. They are available, under certain circumstances, to pardon or cure many grounds of inadmissibility, including the following: health-related grounds, certain crimes, including crimes of moral turpitude; fraud or willful misrepresentation; false claims to U.S. citizenship; smuggling; prior removals; unlawful presence; and, foreign residency requirement for J-1 visa holders.

Certain individuals, based on their status, are also eligible to seek waivers for a wide range of inadmissibility grounds. For example, refugees and asylees can seek a waiver for most grounds of inadmissibility with the exception of controlled-substance crimes, security and related grounds, or participation in Nazi persecution, torture or genocide. Individuals who seek relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) are eligible for number of waivers, including to waive the immigration violation of being present without admission or parole and domestic violence grounds under certain circumstances.

Health Related Waivers

A foreign national is ineligible for admission to the United States as an immigrant if he or she has a “communicable disease of public health significance.” The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determines whether a health condition should be included on the list of communicable diseases of public health significance. Currently, HHS lists the following health conditions as health-related grounds of inadmissibilty: tuberculosis; syphilis; syphilis; chancroid; gonorrhea; granuloma inguinale; lymphogranuloma venereum; and Hansen’s Disease (leprosy). Section 212(g) of the Immigration and Act specifically states that the Attorney General may waive the § 212(a)(1)(A)(i) grounds of inadmissibility, i.e., having a “communicable disease of a public health significance,” for any permanent resident applicant who is the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or the recipient of an immigrant visa. In other words, Section 212(g) is only available to foreign nationals seeking permanent residence, not temporary workers or travelers to the United States. In order to obtain a waiver under section 212(g), the applicant must show that there is a doctor lined up to monitor the person’s medical condition and that the alien will report to that doctor. Additionally, the 212(g) waiver must be signed by a local health official from the jurisdiction where the applicant’s physician practices medicine to affirm the doctor’s ability to care for the patient. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will generally recommend approval of a waiver provided that the physical exam is less than one year old. However, the CDC’s recommendation is merely an advisory opinion and the USCIS has the ultimate authority to decide whether a waiver should be granted.