Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Medical Requirements for Filipino US Immigrants

St. Luke's Medical Center | Medical Requirements for Filipino US Immigrants
SLEC is at 1177 J. Bocobo Street Ermita, Manila
(Google Earth Photo)
She writes...

Throughout our immigration process learning pains and pangs, there was nothing that I dreaded more than the medical examination. 

A clean bill of health is a prerequisite for the last step of the visa application: the interview at the U.S. Embassy. The thought of failing too close to the finish line was daunting because it would set us back for three to four months, maybe more.

I was confident in Ray's ability to follow instructions to the T, and I knew that with filling out forms, he would do it as smoothly and as efficiently as the latest upgrade of a Mac Operating System. I also knew that he would see to it that he would go above and beyond what was required just because he's wired that way. 


While some would get anxious at the thought of being interviewed at the American Embassy, my real anxiety was going through the required medical examination. My dread was not unfounded. First of all, there was no reviewer that could have prepared me for it.

Second, waiting in line while processing some of our requirements, I would often overhear people who have gone through the U.S. Immigration process relating stories about failing to complete it because of blurry or inconclusive chest X-rays. 

Third, if you are curious enough to want to know the experiences of other immigrants on the Internet like I was, chances are you would come across online discussions about delays in visa application processing because of not passing the medical exam. You could start to panic just reading about how one wife’s immigration journey was stalled because her chest  X-ray was not clear, so she was prescribed medication and was asked to come back months later.

But whether I feared this step in the immigration process or not, I still had to undergo it so that I could get a visa. If you are a worrywart like me, these pointers will help alleviate your fears and prepare you for the medical exam. 

Accredited Medical Facility 

The St. Luke's Medical Center Extension Clinic on Bocobo Street, Ermita, is the only accredited health facility for the medical examination of Filipino US immigrant visa applicants. It is not exclusive for US applicants- Australia, New Zealand and Canada applicants also undergo their medical examination there. 

For US visa applicants, the listed phone numbers are (02) 521-0020 and (02) 521-8647 extension 6108 for inquiries and 6105 for follow ups. Their listed mobile number is 0908-864-3504 and their email add is slec@slec.ph.

The facility can be reached by private vehicles and cabs but I didn’t see any parking areas for the former. Ray and I took the LRT 1 and got there around 7:00 a.m. When taking the train, you can alight at either the United Nations or Pedro Gil station. You will have to walk from the stations since the address is not accessible by buses and jeepneys.

Scheduling

The examination can only be scheduled after you’ve received the interview letter from the National Visa Center. We made the schedule online more than two weeks before the interview to allow for ample time in case unforeseen holdups occurred.

The medical exam follows a two-day flow; so even if you get done early on the first day, you will still need to return the next day. 

If you are coming from outside Metro Manila, there are hotels in the area where you could check in.

We went on a Thursday and I got through immediately even if we arrived at 7:00 a.m. I was done before lunch because there were hardly any patients. The nurse who took my blood sample said that queues were usually long on Mondays and would taper off towards the end of the week.

Ray was not allowed to come with me inside so he waited for me at a coffee shop nearby. 

Exams (Day 1)

During the two-day medical exam, the medical staff will get your vital signs.  You will also undergo a physical examination, a short psychological evaluation, an eye test, a chest X-ray and blood extraction for a syphilis test if you are at least 15 years old. If you are between ages two and 14, you will undergo a tuberculin skin test. 

Aside from medical history, some of the questions I remember being asked are when I had the first day of my last period, the last time I had sexual intercourse, whether I’ve used contraceptives in the past and if I’ve ever had dengue.


Medical Exam Schedule Day 1 | Medical Requirements for Filipino US Immigrants
Day 1 Medical Exam  (Flow Chart by SLEC)
For females, make sure that you don’t have your period when you go for your medical because you will only be asked to return after your monthly flow. You also have to make sure that there will be an OB-Gyn on duty on the date of your schedule, otherwise, you will only be asked to go back for additional examination. 

Vaccines (Day 2)

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lists vaccination requirements for immigrants as follows: Mumps, Measles, Rubella, Polio, Tetanus and Diphtheria Toxoids, Pertussis, Haemophilus Influenza type B, Hepatitis B and “any other vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices."

In its medical examination instructions for immigrant visas, the US Embassy in Manila adds to the list Rotavirus, Hepatitis A, Meningococcal disease, Varicella and Pneumococcal.

As of April 1, 2015, the medical exam fee of P11,270 ($245) for applicants 15 years and older actually already includes the vaccinations.  For those less than 15 years old, the fee is P8,510 ($185). 

Even if the fee included vaccinations, my husband, being the instruction-heeding person that he is, recommended that I get vaccinated before the medical exam. I agreed with him because realistically, some vaccines such as Hepatitis A and B had to be administered within the span of months. It could be quite pricy. The total amount we paid for vaccines was at least P20,000, but we thought of it as an investment- a means of adding longevity to life since we decided to get married much later in life than most couples do.

Applicants who do not have any of the vaccines required will have all available vaccines administered on the second day, so expect some soreness after all is said and done. If you go for your medical at a time when some vaccines are out of stock, then you don’t get your shot. You might be told to return at a certain date when vaccines are expected to be available but you might have already left the country by then.

If you opt to have a private practitioner administer your vaccines before the medical exam, make sure to obtain certifications as well as vaccination records. The latter can come in handy in case your doctor fails to enumerate all vaccines in the certification like mine did.


Medical Exam Schedule Day 2 | Medical Requirements for Filipino US Immigrants
Day 2 Medical Exam (Flow Chart by SLEC)
Documents 

Aside from vaccination records, there are other documents required to gain entry into the medical facility and to be admitted.

The guard on duty at the clinic will allow you to enter if you have your  USCIS interview appointment confirmation letter and your passport (make sure you have at least three photocopies each). At the US counter, you will also need two printed copies of your online registration form and four copies of 2x2 photos with a white background. The photo requirements were confusing, but at the very least, make sure you wear a collared shirt and that you do not wear jewelry for your photo. Although it wasn’t specified in the instructions, my photo was rejected because I didn’t wear a shirt with a collar.

Expect delays if you’ve had TB before

The World Health Organization lists the Philippines among the top 10 countries with the most cases of TB and being the paranoid person that I am, I was distressed about the condition of my lungs. Even though I felt fine and never had any symptoms of anything, what fueled my paranoia was information I learned while attending a health seminar years earlier and hearing about how a renown toxicologist caught the disease. I thought then that I had a greater chance of catching TB because I commuted (even preferred) to walk around Metro Manila most of the time. This was of course an exaggerated scenario, and my medical exam results were fine.

A friend’s spouse visa application took a year and a half instead of the usual nine months because his TB history required him to undergo more tests. 

If you’ve recently had colds and cough, have colds and cough, or feel like you’re coming down with either, postpone your appointment. Make sure you get well first, lest you become a suspected case of TB and are required to take a sputum test. This is one tip I got from someone I took the CFO Guidance and Counseling Certificate with.

A smoker applicant I met said that he wanted to ensure clear X-ray results, so he drank a can of alpine milk and all other supposed hacks. I don’t know how effective this is.

The medical facility will reschedule your interview at the embassy in case additional tests need to be done or if results are inconclusive.

Other Essentials

Waiting for your turn takes longer than the actual examinations. You may be at St Luke’s for a while, so bring something to read like a book or a magazine. If you’d rather use your iPhone or iPad, bring a power bank so you don’t run out of battery. 

They allow you to bring water.

Bring a scrunchie or a pony tail because the radiologist will ask you to tie your hair in order to perform the chest X-ray. Remember to bring a pen.

Make sure you bring enough Philippine pesos for medical fee payments.

Healthy Living

If you worry about the state of your health, it is best to subscribe to a healthy lifestyle before the medical exam. Not that you will be denied entry based on your weight, but it will give you more confidence and you have better chances of not getting sick before your scheduled medical exam.

My medical was scheduled during flu season, but I stayed healthy by eating right and exercising. #

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5 comments:

  1. Great tips! Do you know where I can find info on what vaccines are required?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Jim. This comes a bit late but we hope it helps- you can usually find the required vaccines on the sites of USCIS and the US embassy in Manila.

      At the time that we processed my immigration, the required vaccines were as follows: Mumps, Measles, Rubella, Polio, Tetanus and Diphtheria Toxoids, Pertussis, Haemophilus Influenza type B, Hepatitis B and “any other vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices."

      Delete
  2. Hi! Just want to ask after your medical exam and interview in the us embassy, how long did it take for you to know the result of you visa?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're still working on clearing medical, but what I've read is that they will tell you at the conclusion of the interview if you are approved. They then take your passport for processing and return it to you by special courier within two weeks. If you are waiting in Manila, you can select to pickup the visa at the courier office when you pre-register.

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