It’s possible to be denied visitation or immigration to the United States if you have a diagnosed mental health condition like depression.
In some cases, a depression diagnosis can make it difficult to enter the country.
If you apply for a U.S. visa, depression might lead to your application being denied, especially if you’ve engaged in self-harm or attempted suicide.
You might be able to get a green card if you have depression, but in some cases, you might not.
To apply for a temporary visa or lawful permanent residence (a green card), you’ll need to show that you don’t present a health risk to the public.
According to Nolo, you might be denied entry to the United States if you have — or have had — a mental health condition that causes you to engage in harmful behavior, to yourself or to others.
Immigration law bars noncitizens from entering the United States or obtaining a green card if they have both of the following:
- a physical or mental disorder that can be clinically diagnosed
- behavior associated with the disorder that could pose or has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the immigrant to others in the public
When it comes to clinical diagnosis, they’ll likely use the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5)-TR. The DSM-5-TR is the clinician’s comprehensive guide to diagnosing mental health disorders in the United States.
The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212 denies entry to people who have had a physical or mental disorder that could pose a “threat to the property, safety or welfare’’ of themselves or others.
You might need clearance from a medical professional if you have a mental health condition. Medical exams are required for all immigrant visa applications (and some nonimmigrant visa applications).
The outcome can depend on:
- whether you’ve harmed yourself or others in the past
- whether you’re currently experiencing any symptoms
- whether you’re a current risk to yourself or others
- how long ago you harmed (or attempted to harm) yourself or others
Even if you don’t consider yourself a danger to yourself or others, you may be denied entry.
If you suspect you might have a mental health condition, but it isn’t diagnosed, it’s unlikely to affect your visa application — especially if there’s no medical history or paper trail to confirm your symptoms.
However, if you’re planning to immigrate to the United States, you’ll need to undergo a medical exam. The medical professional who examines you might ask you about your mental health and whether you have any symptoms of mental health conditions.
As mentioned earlier, immigration law specifically bars noncitizens from entering the country if they have a clinically diagnosable condition and could pose a threat to themselves or others.
If you don’t fit the criteria for diagnosis, your mental health might not be a barrier to entering the United States.
Possibly — but depending on the outcome of your medical exam, you might be denied entry.
If your self-harm or suicide attempt is linked to a mental health condition and a medical professional claims it’s likely to recur, your visa application will likely be denied.
If you’re considering acting on suicidal thoughts, please seek professional support immediately.
Calling or texting a crisis helpline will connect you with a trained counselor 24/7, any day of the year, completely free of charge and globally:
Many people go to therapy without having a clinically diagnosable mental health condition. Similarly, many people who go to therapy are not at risk of harming themselves and others.
Receiving a green card is possible even if you have been in therapy. However, if you disclose that you’ve received mental health treatment, you’ll probably have to get clearance from a registered medical professional as a part of your visa application process.
In 2013, a story broke about a Canadian woman who was denied entry to the United States because she was previously hospitalized for depression.
According to the Toronto Star, Ellen Richardson planned to embark on a 10-day cruise from New York City but was denied entry by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent with the Department of Homeland Security.
She was told that this was because she had been hospitalized for clinical depression the year before. To gain entry, the CBP agent told her she’d need medical clearance from certain doctors — her psychiatrist’s clearance wouldn’t work.
The story raised questions about how the CBP agent could access her private medical records, given that she was treated in Canada.
According to NPR, experts say that cases like Richardson’s are uncommon, but not unheard of.
Although many people who are hospitalized for depression are able to enter the United States as tourists, there is a possibility that you might be denied entry.
If you have any mental health condition that could make you a danger to yourself or others, you could be denied entry to the United States.
Conditions can include:
- mood disorders
- anxiety disorders with a history or signs of potential harmful behavior
- personality disorders
- substance use disorder
- schizophrenia and related disorders
Having the above disorders doesn’t necessarily mean you are dangerous to yourself or others.
According to MentalHealth.gov, only
Still, people with certain mental illnesses might be deemed a risk by immigration officials.
It’s uncertain whether you’ll be granted entry to the United States if you live with a mental health diagnosis or have experienced self-harm in the past. Many people manage to travel to the United States despite having depression.
Predicting the outcome of a U.S. visa application isn’t as cut and dry as many hope. If you’d like more personalized advice, you might want to consult with an immigration lawyer.
In the meantime, here are helpful resources for traveling when you manage certain mental health conditions: