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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced yesterday that it is changing its rules on the validity period for medical exams. The new guidelines take effect almost immediately on November 1, 2018. The announcement changes how long a medical exam – completed on the Form I-639 – is considered valid.
Essentially, the new rules say this:
- First, the medical exam needs to be completed no sooner than two months (60 days) before an immigration application is filed. So let’s say you plan to file an adjustment application (Form I-485) on December 1, 2018. Your medical exam would need to be signed off on October 2, 2018, or any date thereafter. If they I-639 was signed before October 2, 2018 – 60 days before the date of your filing – then the exam will be considered invalid and you’ll be required to do another one.
- Second, the exam is then valid for two years from the date on which it is signed. So, if you got it signed on October 15, 2018, it will be valid until October 14, 2020.
- Third, the rule is in effect for applications filed on and after November 1, 2018. So if you filed before then your medical exam is not impacted by the new rules.
What does this mean for applicants?
The rule change seems to be motivated in part by the reality that adjustment applications are taking a very long time to process. Many applications are taking over a year and a half, and it is easy to imagine that applications will start hitting the two-year mark.
As a practical matter, most immigration lawyers never file medical exams at the time they file the Form I-485. Under long-standing USCIS policy, you are permitted to bring the medical exam to the interview with you. That way, you don’t have to worry about the medical exam expiring before your interview. Plus, it’s one fewer thing you need to worry about at the time you file your I-485. The new rules do not change your ability to do this. So I normally tell clients to forget about the medical exam when we file the I-485. Then in the months leading up to the interview, the client gets the medical done at her convenience. Under current processing times at most local offices, you would be very safe to wait 8-9 months after filing the Form I-45, then go ahead and secure the medical exam.
A very important consideration is how this rule will interact with the new USCIS policy on denying incomplete applications. Under a new policy memorandum, USCIS says that it will deny some applications that are filed with incomplete documentation. A medical exam signed off more than 60 days prior to an application is considered invalid. Since the I-639 is not required at the time of initial I-485 filing, hopefully USCIS will not deny applications filed with expired medical exams. But they may do so. This is all the more reason to file the medical exam at the time of the interview.