Chongqing Girl with Cancer Battles Visa Issues to Get U.S. Medical Treatment

Anni Wan, a 16-year-old from Chongqing diagnosed with cancer in her chin, was given three months to live. That’s when an American friend helped her seek out doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and get a B1/B2 (visitor) visa for medical treatment from the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.

Anni’s story about battling U.S. visa issues illustrates several important points about applying for a U.S. visa for medical treatment.

For the U.S. visa application, the Houston doctors reviewed her medical records and estimated they could treat her within 3 months at a cost of $47,000. But, when Anni arrived in Houston, doctors also found previously undiagnosed cancer in her spine that would require a year of treatment. When the hospital bills jumped to $450,000 (even after two doctors waived their fees for treatment), the family’s money ran out. The family and the American friend began to solicit donations, raising some $300,000.

But Anni also had to battle U.S. visa issues. Anni’s application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to extend her visitor status was denied. The news story doesn’t explain the reasons for denial, but the most likely reasons are that the evidence submitted to USCIS of the medical diagnosis wasn’t clear, the updated treatment plan and cost of that plan wasn’t clear, and/or the evidence of the family’s ability to pay (taking into account donations and fee waivers by the hospital) wasn’t sufficient.

After sleepless nights for the family, a U.S. Congressman was able to intervene to get the extension approved, presumably by compiling persuasive evidence of one or all of these points.

The doctors now believe that Anni will survive, completing her treatment in May.

Anni’s story shows that consular officers and USCIS officers are typically sympathetic but also thorough and cautious about approving visa applications for persons who may require emergency medical treatment in the U.S. but may be unable to pay. An applicant needs to do several things:

1. Medical Diagnosis: You will need a detailed and clearly written diagnosis from a physician explaining the nature of your medical condition and why you prefer to or need to go to the U.S. for treatment.

2. Treatment Plan: You will need a letter from the U.S. physician or hospital explaining the planned course of treatment, its length, and the cost of treatment.

3. Ability to Pay: You will need evidence such as bank statements, tax returns, or insurance policies showing that you are able to pay for the treatment, transportation, and U.S. living expenses. If somebody else will pay for the treatment, they should also provide a statement explaining they will be financially responsible. It may be wise for that person to also complete a USCIS Form I-134, Affidavit of Support.

In Anni’s case, the diagnosis and treatment plan provided to the U.S. Consulate in Chongqing were good enough to get the visa, although the cancer in her spine was undiagnosed. When the new diagnosis required additional medical treatment at a higher cost, the application to USCIS required an updated diagnosis, treatment plan and cost estimate, and evidence of ability to pay.

In my opinion, U.S. policy allowing for issuance of B1/B2 (visitor) visas for medical treatment is a good thing both for patients and for U.S. hospitals. But to make this policy viable visa applicants need to understand and comply with the rules requiring a clear diagnosis, treatment plan, and proof of ability to pay.

You can help make U.S. visa policy work for patients like Anni whose families are unable to pay for treatment. Make make a donation to a fund set up by Anni’s family or to the MD Anderson Cancer Center:

American First National Bank
9999 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, Texas 77036
Account Name: Xu LingAccount Number: 939327

MD Anderson Cancer Center
P.O. Box 4461
Houston, Texas 77210-4461
Attention: Anni Wan, Medical Record Number: 883851

12 Replies to “Chongqing Girl with Cancer Battles Visa Issues to Get U.S. Medical Treatment”

  1. Dear Mr. Chodorow,
    I am Michael Blair, the American friend that arranged for Anni to come to America. I appreciate your kind article and time you took to explain the issues surrounding prospective travel to America for medical treatment.

    I just wanted to take a moment to update. Anni is in remission and doing very well. She’s had 3, 3-month, followup treatments and no cancer has been found. Yes, we received many donations and her hospital bill has been paid.

    So, if I may, via your website, extend our true appreciation for the financial support and especially the prayers that so many have offered up for Anni.

    I wish you well, and please, continue to advise. If we can do anything here in America to help any of Lingling and Anni’s countrymen, please don’t hesitate to call upon us. You have my email.

    With deepest regards,
    Michael Blair

  2. Michael,

    I’m glad Anni’s doing well, and it’s great she’s got you for a friend.

  3. I am living in east coast Edison (close to New York and Boston) & was thinking about one of my close relative (6 Yrs old girl ) who is diagnosed with Bone Cancer with survival chances around 25%.

    1. I just wanted to check if the parents are also issued visa along with the patient, considering the fact that patient may be 6-7 years old girl?

    2. I also has to suggest the best Hospital for treatment and Explored Few options
    1. MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston
    2. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center located in New York, New York:*****
    3. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute located in Boston, Massachusetts:*****
    4. Johns Hopkins Hospital located in Baltimore, Maryland:*****
    Wanted your help on choosing the best treatment facility.

    Thanks in Advance
    PK Jain

    1. PK,

      You ask whether a consular officer may issue a visitor’s visa to the parents of a child who is coming to the U.S. temporarily for medical treatment. The answer is yes. That is a proper activity with a visitor’s visa, so the visa can be issued if the applicant meets the other requirements for the visa, such as proving nonimmigrant intent, etc.

      1. Hi. My mom was referred to NIH in Maryland for free medical evalutaion and treatment of her paraganglioma, a rare kind of tumor. Despite having sponsors on medical expenses, lodging and flight, we were still refused with visa. My mom is married and has business and permanent address here. I have work as well. But still, we were refused for not showing strong ties with the country. Is there anything we can do to get approved because she really needs this medical opportunity. Thanks.

  4. Lot of thanks Gary for giving me suggestion on visa application. Your comment would be helpful for me & patients family.

    Regards
    PK

  5. My sister’s medical visa was denied because we are unable to meet the cost of the bill. My sister has a tumor growing inside of her, she is dying slowly everyday, and there is nothing we can do to help her. i just wish there were free cancer treatment centers around the world. It hurts a lot to see my sister suffer and it hurts more to know that she can be treated but her family can’t afford it.

    1. Kiah,

      I’m sorry to hear that. What country does your sister live in? And do you personally live in the U.S.?

  6. Hi,

    My sister-in-law is really sick. She was diagnosed with liver cancer. She has a few months to live. She is an American citizen with three kids. She wants her sister to come to the U.S. to take care of the kids. Now, that sister lives in Saudi Arabia (with a Somali passport). How can she get a visa?

    1. Depending on how long the sister in Saudi Arabia intends to stay in the U.S., she may be able to come to the U.S. as a B-2 visitor. Of course, this would require proving nonimmigrant intent, which may not be easy depending on her family, economic, and social ties to Saudi Arabia.

      If the B-2 isn’t feasible, then a more creative solution could be required. Work visa? Humanitarian parole?

      You may want to schedule a family call with an immigration lawyer who can learn the facts and lay out the options.

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