As individuals and families navigate immigration proceedings, a forensic psychological evaluation can be instrumental in demonstrating that removal from the country can cause an extreme hardship. In many cases, these evaluations can significantly change the outcome and strengthen the case.
As part of the evaluation process, I will meet with you initially for a 2-3 hour clinical interview. During this time I will get to know you, understand your immigration journey and ways in which you have been psychologically impacted by the journey. I will then meet with you on two separate occasions for about two hours each to complete psychological testing (e.g. Trauma inventories, MMPI, WAIS etc.). A report will be drafted and sent to your attorney for review in two weeks after your last scheduled appointment. Once all reviews are completed a final copy of the report will be sent to the client and the attorney.
Enhancing An Immigration Case with a Psychological Evaluation
We know that the uncertainty during the immigration process can cause even more emotional distress. That’s why educating clients on their options and performing comprehensive psychological evaluations with the utmost care is a top priority for me.
There are several types of immigration cases that ultimately benefit from a psychological evaluation.
Extreme Hardship Waivers
When individuals are faced with deportation from the U.S., adding a psychological evaluation to the application for an extreme hardship waiver can impact the case. During this evaluation, the client who is the U.S. citizen is evaluated to determine whether or not the deportation of a spouse/family member would result in an extreme hardship, whether the client remained in the U.S. or moved to the country of origin of the deported spouse/family member. While it is helpful for the client to plea their case, having a comprehensive, objective psychological evaluation conducted and a recommendation from a licensed psychologist can add credibility to the concerns of the client.
Violence Against Women Acts (VAWA)
This type of immigration case affects both men and women and involves an individual from a foreign country who has married a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. If this individual has experienced spousal abuse and is seeking to file for legal status that is not connected to the current spouse who allegedly has inflicted emotional, sexual, verbal, psychological or physical abuse, a VAWA case is often filed. Because emotional and psychological abuse is sometimes difficult to prove, it is helpful to meet with a licensed psychologist who understands domestic violence and ways in which it may uniquely impact immigrants. During this type of evaluation, a licensed psychologist can evaluate the nature of the abuse, the individual’s emotional state as a result of the abuse and the ramifications a connection to the spouse holds both short term and long term. The evaluation allows individuals to detail the impact of the abuse and how the connection to the spouse for legal status impacts his or her overall well-being. It also details ways in which this individual might suffer extreme hardship if he or she returned to their country of origin.
An additional type of immigration case that benefits from a psychological evaluation involves the U Visa. A U Visa grants exceptions for immigrants who have been victims of crimes in the United States and are willing to help law enforcement with the investigation and/or prosecution. For example, if someone has been a victim of sex trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse or even kidnapping, he or she may qualify for a U Visa that allows him or her to live and work in the U.S. for up to four years with the option to apply for a green card after three years. How can a psychological evaluation help? During the evaluation, a licensed psychologist can assess the extent of emotional damage that has occurred as a result of the crime.
This type of immigration case is filed when an individual is a victim of human trafficking, and would experience an extreme hardship if returned to the country of origin. Once the crime is reported to U.S. law enforcement and a T-Visa application is filed, immigrants may be eligible to live and work in the U.S. for up to four years with the option to apply for a green card after three years. During the immigration process, the completion of a psychological evaluation by a licensed psychologist can document the trauma, emotional and physical abuse, explain the severity and impact of the harm done, explain the need for ongoing care and the hardship that may be experienced if the individual returns to their country of origin.
Individuals and families filing an asylum petition are often unwilling or unable to return to their country of origin due to a well-founded fear of persecution. This persecution may be related to race, religion, nationality or political opinion. An asylum petition is typically filed within one year of entry into the U.S. When conducting a psychological evaluation for individuals seeking asylum, licensed psychologists compile information and details about the persecution to determine the extent of the psychological impact of these events and the psychological ramifications of forcing this individual or family to return to their home country.
Cancellation of Removal Petitions
When an individual or family is notified of deportation, they can file for a cancellation of removal petitions under the Immigration and Nationality Act. If an individual or family is in danger of deportation and has filed a cancellation of removal petition, a psychological immigration evaluation can significantly impact the case. The clinician has to demonstrate whether or not the deportation of the client’s spouse/ family member will cause exceptional or extremely unusual hardship.
Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions/ N-648 Waiver
An individual applying for naturalization who cannot meet the English and Civics requirements can apply for this exception. Due to legislation enacted in 1994 by Congress, this exception applies to individuals who have an impairment that can be verified by medically-accepted laboratory or clinical diagnostic techniques. Meeting with a licensed psychologist gives applicants the opportunity to show evidence of a disability or impairment that significantly impacts functioning required to meet the Civics and English requirements.