Rare Approval of B-2 Visitor Visa for Stem Cell Donor from Philippines


The U.S. Consulate in Manila approved a B-2 visitor visa application for a stem cell donor, a Filipino national, who was urgently needed in the U.S. to participate in his U.S. Citizen brother’s stem cell transplant to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The applicant is a human leucocyte antigen (HLA) half- match to his brother and traveled to the U.S. to take part in a Haploidentical Stem Cell Transplantation, a procedure developed by doctors at Johns Hopkins over the past 10 years. According to the patient’s transplant physician, the visa approval for the donor was unprecedented during his long tenure at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center.

The applicant proved the necessity of the stem cell transplant to successfully treat the disease and his participation being vital to the treatment plan, provided evidence of the HLA match between the applicant and patient, and submitted supporting documents to establish all other visitor visa requirements as set forth in 9 FAM 402.2-2 and the U.S. Consulate Manila office’s website, which contained instructions and requirements specific to its office.

In order to demonstrate that the applicant is, in fact, necessary and vital to the patient’s medical treatment of ALL, a comprehensive letter from the patient’s U.S. transplant physician of the medical facility arranged to perform the procedure was prepared. Critical information included the following:

1) Statement explaining the diagnosis, patient’s current medical condition and eligibility for transplant, and necessity of the treatment for the patient’s survival.

2) Brief statement explaining the histocompatibility blood test result, as well as an explanation as to which medical facility the donor’s blood was drawn and at which medical facility it was tested. In this case, the U.S. hospital mailed test tubes to the donor and requested that the donor’s blood be drawn at a medical facility in the Philippines and mailed to the U.S. hospital for testing. It is of particular significance to submit the Histocompatibility Report produced by the
U.S. medical facility to validate compatibility.

3) Certification that the applicant is an acceptable organ donor (and possibly the only viable and acceptable organ donor identified).

4) Statement explaining that arrangements at the U.S. medical facility have been completed for the stem cell donation and a statement detailing where and by whom the medical procedure will be performed.

5) Statement estimating the length of time to perform tests, the transplant procedure, and for the donor’s recovery. The length of time indicated in the physician’s letter closely matched the period of stay requested in the DS-160 application.

6) Physician’s original signature on the medical facility’s letterhead, dated and current, with the physician’s business card to help establish authenticity.

To further establish the need for the donor’s travel to the U.S., the local hematologist-oncologist physician who had first diagnosed and treated the patient provided a detailed letter explaining the diagnosis, chemotherapy treatment plan undertaken, patient’s medication condition and eligibility for transplant, the need for the transplant to effectively destroy the cancer, and her referral to the transplant medical facility.

Along with these key pieces of evidence, as required by the U.S. Consulate in Manila at the time of filing, applicant prepared documentation to demonstrate that financial arrangements for payment of estimated medical and lodging expenses for the donor have been made. In this case, counsel prepared a letter from the health insurance company and a copy of relevant pages of the health insurance coverage booklet specifying that medical expenses for organ donors are eligible for coverage under the insurance policy. In addition, bank statements and letters from both the applicant and recipient were prepared to demonstrate financial means were available to pay for medical and travel expenses and room and board for the applicant’s requested period of stay in the U.S. Also of importance was to provide the specific U.S. addresses where the donor would reside during the medical procedure and recovery period.

Further, the U.S. Consulate in Manila, at the time of filing, required additional medical testing to establish compatibility, preferably by the National Kidney and Transplant Institute or St. Luke’s Medical Center Extension Clinic, to screen for the following: blood type, HIV, hepatitis, herpes, CMV, and syphilis. The applicant

complied with these requirements and prepared original copies of test results for the interview.

In order to prove that the applicant did not intend to abandon his residence in the Philippines, applicant prepared documentation to validate that he is currently employed and his job position will be available upon returning from the U.S. The applicant was also equipped with evidence of strong family ties.

After a brief interview with the consular officer, the applicant was issued a 221(g) Letter indicating that the case required further administrative processing. The officer stated that she will call the transplant physician for confirmation. The consulate office approved the application a few days after the interview, granting a 10-year multiple entry B1/B2 visa, allowing the applicant to travel to the U.S. to participate in time-sensitive and life-saving and treatment for his brother.

In the event of denial, applicant’s recourse was to file for parole for urgent humanitarian reasons with USCIS according to INA §212(d)(5)(A), however, humanitarian parole is highly discretionary and the length of time for USCIS to process the Form I-131 application can be lengthy. For the patient, an additional several months of waiting may have been highly detrimental to his chances of survival.

About The Author

Sue Yoon Logan, Esq. is an attorney licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, specializing in the practice of immigration law, and has been a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association since 2008. Ms. Logan previously handled business and family related immigration matters for Just Law International, P.C. in Fairfax, Virginia. She is a founding member of the North Korea Freedom Coalition and has been involved with human rights advocacy since 2003. Ms. Logan completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and received her Juris Doctorate from the Regent University School of Law.

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