Chapter 8 - Drug Abuse or Drug Addiction

A. Drug Abuse or Drug Addiction

Applicants who are found to be drug abusers or addicts are inadmissible. [1] Drug abuse and drug addiction are current substance-use disorders or substance-induced disorders of a controlled substance listed in Section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association or by another authoritative source as determined by the Director. [2] 

In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed the Technical Instructions on how a civil surgeon determines whether an applicant is a drug abuser or drug addict. [3] The civil surgeon must now make this determination according to the DSM as specified in the Technical Instructions. [4] 

If the applicant is classified as a drug abuser or addict, the applicant can apply again for an immigration benefit if his or her drug abuse or addiction is in remission. Remission is now defined by DSM criteria, and no longer by a set timeframe as it was under previous Technical Instructions. [5] In order for an applicant’s drug abuse or addiction to be classified as in remission, the applicant must return to a civil surgeon for a new assessment.

If the officer has reason to question the completeness or accuracy of the medical examination report, the officer should ask CDC to review the medical report before sending a Request for Evidence (RFE).

Most applicants who are found to be drug abusers or addicts are ineligible for a waiver; the availability depends, however, on the immigration benefit the applicant seeks. [6]

B. Part of Form I-693 Addressing Drug Abuse or Drug Addiction

The civil surgeon must check the appropriate findings box on the medical examination report. The civil surgeon should also either annotate the findings in the remarks section or attach a report, if the space provided is not sufficient. However, the officer should not RFE simply because the civil surgeon has omitted the remarks or failed to attach a report.

C. Request for CDC Advisory Opinion

If an officer has a case where there is a question concerning the diagnosis or classification made by the civil surgeon or panel physician, the officer may forward the pertinent documents to CDC and request an advisory opinion.

The request should include the following documents:

  • A cover letter indicating the request, reason(s) for the request, and the USCIS office making the request;

  • A copy of the medical examination documentation (Form I-693 or Form DS-2053/DS-2054, and its related worksheets);

  • A copy of the provided medical report(s) detailing the medical condition for which the advisory opinion is being requested; and

  • Copies of all other relevant medical reports, laboratory results, and evaluations connected to the medical condition.

Once the documents are received by CDC, CDC reviews the documents and forwards a response letter with results of the review to the USCIS office that submitted the request. 

CDC’s usual processing time for review and response back to the requesting USCIS office is approximately 4 weeks.

Upon receipt, the officer should review CDC’s response letter to determine next steps. 


[^ 1] See INA 212(a)(1)(A)(iv).

[^ 2] See Title II of Pub. L. 91-513 (PDF), 84 Stat. 1242, 1247 (October 27, 1970), as amended, codified at 21 U.S.C. 801 et. seq. See 42 CFR 34.2(h) (drug abuse). See 42 CFR 34.2(i) (drug addiction). HHS regulations define Director as the Director of CDC or a designee as approved by the Director or Secretary of HHS. See 42 CFR 34.2(g).

[^ 3] See CDC’s Technical Instructions for Physical or Mental Disorders with Associated Harmful Behaviors and Substance-Related Disorders, available at

[^ 4] The DSM is a publication of the American Psychiatric Association. Considerations that were relevant under previous Technical Instructions, such as a pattern of abuse or a history of experimental use of drugs, no longer play a direct role in the admissibility determination; they are now only considered as one of the elements under the DSM assessment. The assessment under the DSM is complicated. For more information, please see the Technical Instructions.

[^ 5] Under the pre-2010 Technical Instructions, an applicant’s substance abuse or addiction was in remission if the applicant had not engaged in non-medical use of a controlled substance within the past 3 years, or non-medical use of a non-controlled substance within the past 2 years.

[^ 6] See Volume 9, Waivers and Other Forms of Relief, Part D, Health-Related Grounds of Inadmissibility [9 USCIS-PM D] for more on waivers.

Current as of September 16, 2021