If you wish to immigrate to Canada, and in some cases if you are applying for a temporary visa, you must undergo a medical examination. The purpose of immigration medical examinations is to determine that you do not cause a danger to public health and that you do not have a medical condition that may be excessively costly to treat when you arrive in Canada.
Grounds for Medical Inadmissibility:
Immigration medical examinations are carried out by designated physicians and Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) has a list of physicians that can assist you in countries around the world. The medical examination is a standard physical exam and includes a series of tests (blood and urine) and x-rays. You will also be asked about your prior medical history and your mental state as part of the examination. The results of these examinations are extremely important as you may be found inadmissible to Canada if:
- your condition would endanger the health or safety of the Canadian population at large, or
- your condition may cause excessive demand on existing social or health services provided by the government.
An example of a medical condition that may make you inadmissible under the first category is Active Pulmonary Tuberculosis (TB). There are also other conditions that can make you inadmissible under this category such as suffering from a variety of brain disorders or applicants who have substance abuse issues that cause them to behave antisocially or in a violent manner, and other types of hostile and disruptive behaviour.
In the second category, you may be found inadmissible if your condition requires government-funded health services such as specialists, nurses, physiotherapists, laboratory services, medications or hospital care, as well as social services such as specialized residence or home care, social rehabilitative services, personal support services, and services intended to assist a person in their physical, emotional, social, psychological or vocational function. If the anticipated costs for these services are found to exceed the Canadian per capita health services and social services costs over a 5 to 10 year period, then the immigration officer may find you inadmissible due to excessive demand.
Can You Overcome Medical Inadmissibility?
An immigration officer that is of the opinion you may be medically inadmissible will issue a “Procedural Fairness Letter” to you. This letter will provide you with an opportunity to respond to the allegation of medical inadmissibility within 60 days.
Medical inadmissibility cases are very complicated and many medical and even psychological conditions can lead to your immigration application being refused. It is very important to act quickly and receive legal advice as soon as possible. You are most likely to overcome medical inadmissibility if you can provide a response to the Procedural Fairness Letter that is fully researched and supported by specialized documents and legal arguments. If your application is refused due to medical inadmissibility a lawyer may also assist you in appealing the decision.
In some cases you can act proactively to increase your chances of avoiding medical inadmissibility. If you suspect that there may be medical concerns for yourself or any family member included in your application you can consult a specialized lawyer to determine the best way to proceed with your immigration application to avoid a finding of medical inadmissibility.
Potential Changes Coming to Medical Inadmissibility:
One of the only exceptions to the strict requirements for medical admissibility has been the case of applicants under the family sponsorship category. These applicants are not subject to the excessive demand component of medical inadmissibility. However, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on November 22, 2017 and stated that the “excessive demand” provisions for medical inadmissibility are out-dated and need to be changed.
These discussions about the need to change this part of medical inadmissibility are fuelled by a recognition of the discriminatory nature of this provision on people with disabilities. There are a number of proposals for updating this provision to better reflect Canada’s view towards people with disabilities and implement legislation and policies that can increase inclusiveness in our society. We will need to wait to see recommendations of the Committee and whether these will be adopted into new law to change medical inadmissibility in the future.
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Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.