Can you be refused entry to the United States because of depression?

It is possible to be refused visit or immigration to the United States if you have a diagnosed mental illness such as depression.

In some cases, a depression diagnosis can make it difficult to enter the country.

If you are applying for a U.S. visa, depression can cause your application to be denied, especially if you have self-harmed or attempted suicide.

You may be able to get a green card if you have depression, but in some cases you may not.

To apply for a temporary visa or lawful permanent residence (a green card), you must demonstrate that you do not pose a health risk to the public.

According to Nolo, you could be banned from entering the United States if you have — or have had — a mental illness that causes you to engage in harmful behavior, to yourself or others.

Immigration law prohibits non-citizens from entering the United States or getting a green card if they have both of the following:

  1. a physical or mental disorder that can be clinically diagnosed
  2. behavior related to the condition that could or has posed a threat to the immigrant’s property, safety, or welfare to others in the public

When it comes to clinical diagnosis, they will 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 clinicians’ comprehensive guide to diagnosing mental disorders in the United States.

The US Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212, prohibits people from accessing people who have had a physical or mental illness that could pose a “threat to the property, safety, or well-being” of themselves or others.

You may need permission from a medical professional if you have a mental illness. Medical exams are required for all immigrant visa applications (and some non-immigrant visa applications).

The result may depend on:

  • whether you have harmed yourself or others in the past
  • whether you are currently experiencing symptoms
  • whether you pose a risk to yourself or others
  • how long ago did you harm (or attempt to harm) yourself or others?

Even if you do not consider yourself a danger to yourself or others, you may be denied access.

If you suspect you have a mental illness but it is not diagnosed, it will likely not affect your visa application, especially if there is no medical history or paper trail to confirm your symptoms.

However, if you plan to immigrate to the United States, you must undergo a medical examination. The medical professional examining you may ask you questions about your mental health and whether you have symptoms of mental health problems.

As mentioned earlier, immigration law specifically prohibits non-citizens from entering the country if they have a clinically diagnosable condition and may pose a threat to self or others.

If you don’t meet the criteria for diagnosis, your mental health may not be a barrier to entering the United States.

Possibly – but depending on the outcome of your medical examination, you may be refused entry.

If your self-harm or suicide attempt is related to mental illness and a medical professional claims it is likely to recur, your visa application will likely be denied.

Many people enter therapy without having a clinically diagnosable mental illness. Likewise, many people who enter therapy are not at risk of harming themselves and others.

Receiving a green card is also possible if you have been in therapy. However, if you disclose that you have undergone mental health treatment, you will likely need to obtain clearance from a registered medical professional as part of your visa application process.

In 2013, a story broke out about a Canadian woman who was refused entry to the United States because she had previously been hospitalized for depression.

According to the Toronto Star, Ellen Richardson had planned to take a 10-day cruise from New York City, but was denied entry by a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

She was told this was because she had been hospitalized for clinical depression the year before. To access it, the CBP agent told her she needed medical clearance from certain doctors — her psychiatrist’s permission wouldn’t work.

The story raised questions about how the CBP agent was able to access her personal medical records, as she was being treated in Canada.

According to NPR, experts say cases like Richardson’s are uncommon, but not unheard of.

While many people hospitalized for depression can enter the United States as tourists, you may be denied entry.

If you have a mental illness that could put you or others at risk, you may be banned from entering the United States.

Conditions can be:

Having the above conditions does not necessarily mean that you to be dangerous to yourself or others.

According to, only 3% to 5% acts of violence can be attributed to people with severe mental illness. People with mental disorders are not necessarily more violent than the general population, although they may be stigmatized as dangerous.

Still, people with certain mental illnesses may be considered a risk by immigration officials.

It is uncertain whether you will gain entry into 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 depression.

Predicting the outcome of a US visa application is not as short-sighted as many hope. If you would like more personalized advice, you can consult an immigration attorney.

In the meantime, here are helpful travel resources when dealing with certain mental illnesses:

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