Immigration - Psychological Evaluations

Why do I need a Psychological evaluation for immigration ?

If you are a client going through immigration proceedings, your attorney may have encouraged you to get a “psychological evaluation” for your case. Chances are you’ve never been to a psychologist or therapist, and have no idea why you need to go now. The purpose of the evaluation is not to assess how “crazy” you are. The purpose is to provide a bigger picture about who you are, what you have overcome, and give a little more context to those who will review your case.


Hardship Waivers

A USA Citizen or Resident can apply for an immigration waiver for a qualifying relative. For this, it is critical to proving that any removal or deportation of the qualifying relative will cause “Extreme Hardship” to the USA Citizen or Resident. A qualifying relative can include a spouse, children, parents, and same-sex spouse (under the Defense of Marriage Act – DOMA).

“Extreme hardship” is not clearly defined under U.S. law. As part of this, “Extreme Hardship” requires a degree of hardship beyond that typically associated with deportation. But there are factors that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicator will take into account on a case-by-case basis. Also, even if no single factor rises to the level of “extreme hardship,” the effect of all the different hardships when taken together may be enough.

Factors that can help support the case of “Extreme Hardship” to a USA Citizen or Resident can include family separation, economic and financial detriment, mental health and medical conditions, safety and foreign country environment, difficulties adjusting to life in a new country, lack of proper educational and medical resources, etc.

A psychological evaluation often helps support and strengthen the case when claiming Extreme Hardship. As part of the evaluation, a thorough interview to gather relevant historic and current events and conditions is included together with multiple psychological instruments and tests. This process helps assess the impact of the different hardships that apply to each case. A final report is then issued that includes all the previous components. The psychological evaluation helps in showing the hardships that might be associated with the applicant’s ability to move to another country or to stay in the USA without the foreigner.

The hardship waiver evaluation can apply to Form I-601 and I-601(a) waivers of deportation: INA 212 and 216 waiver of inadmissibility for certain crimes, fraud, misrepresentations; fiancée visa (to show reasons preventing the couple from having met in the last 2 years); and, battered spouse, self-petitioner.

Vawa Violence Against Women Act

VAWA allows the victim of spousal or domestic violence (can include verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuses) to continue with a lawful immigration process without the perpetrator’s (USA Citizen or Resident) petition or support. This protects the victim of abuse (immigrant) from having to endure sustained, significant abuse in order to attain a lawful immigration status.

In this case, the psychological evaluation will assess the victim’s mental and emotional state and assess the degree of trauma and negative effects (mentally and emotionally) associated with spousal abuse or domestic violence. Each case is unique, and the psychological evaluation will apply to multiple categories that can include verbal abuse, coercion, manipulation, intimidation, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc. Utilizing the appropriate process, tests and questionnaires, the psychological evaluation will properly assess the impact the abuse has had or is having related to emotional and mental state, functioning level, medical and mental conditions, and will also assess the potential long-term impact of sustained abuse. Usually, this type of abuse contributes to significant mental health illnesses (e.g. Depression, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD).

This process can apply to I-360 (VAWA), and other abuse conditions. The psychological evaluation will assess the effect of the abuse by the USA Citizen or Resident on the immigrant who is part of an immigration process.

Citizenship Examination Waiver (Form N-648)

Anyone applying for USA Citizenship as part of the naturalization process has to undergo a test or examination to show adequate proficiency on specific subjects (English language, USA History, and civic requirements).

However, USCIS allows for exempting a person from taking the citizenship exam under certain circumstances that can be related to medical and/or mental health conditions. This is done by having a qualified professional (e.g. medical doctor, or psychologist) complete Form N-648 (Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions). The exemption has to be “medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments which lasted or is expected to last for 12 months”. However, these impairments cannot be due to illegal abuse of drugs.

For this, a psychological evaluation will assess any physical, developmental, or mental impairment that can interfere with or affect the individual’s concentration, memory, attentional processes, and/or ability to learn.

Once the process is completed, the qualified professional must complete Form N-648 supporting the recommendation to exempt the person from taking the citizenship test.

Expedited Psychological Evaluations for Immigration

Deportation Waiver and VAWA Psychological Evaluations including the Full Report can be completed within 48 hours of the interview with the affected party and can be conducted in-person or remotely (via Skype or FaceTime) if needed and under certain conditions.

Evaluations are comprehensive and include Mental Health Screen, Anxiety and Depression Inventories, PTSD Inventory, Mini-Mental Status Examination, MMPI-RF, TONI-4 (Intelligence), RBANS (Cognitive Functioning), Health Anxiety Inventory, Domestic Violence, and Abuse Questionnaires, Cognitive Functioning Assessments, etc., as applicable. All these questionnaires and inventories are available in both English and Spanish.

Dr. Gustavo Benejam, Psy.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychology in Florida, has completed a large number of Immigration Evaluations, and is fully bi-lingual (English & Spanish). Dr. Benejam has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and has lived in Venezuela and Mexico. Dr. Benejam has physical offices in Boca Raton and Miami, Florida. Dr. Benejam has directly involved in all the steps of the process himself and also answers all calls himself.

Political or Particular Social Group Asylum

As in the above cases, a psychological assessment and evaluation can be a critical part of supporting the negative impact of prosecution and mistreatment in a foreign country. In some cases, the affected party is considered a “Particular Social Group – PSG”. A PSG is normally understood as an identifiable group viewed by a foreign government as a threat (this could apply to sexual orientation, political affiliation, dissidents, family ties, a former members of the military, etc.). Also, the psychological evaluation will identify the adverse effects of prosecution, the mental and emotional state of the individual, and the future outlook if continued exposure to the persecution is sustained. There are key elements to address as part of supporting asylum: (1) a well-founded fear of persecution (2) based on past persecution or risk of persecution in the future if returned to the country of origin (3) because of the applicant’s membership in a particular social group (PSG) wherein (4) the persecutor is a government actor and/or a non-governmental actor that the government is unwilling or unable to control.

According to one study that followed 746 asylum seekers from 2000-2004, 89% percent of asylum cases were granted when a psychological or medical evaluation was submitted. Only 37% of cases were granted without an assessment. We know that these evaluations add a lot of evidence to your case!

As you think about the benefits of a Psychological Immigration Evaluation you might have some questions…

Immigration Psychological Evaluation Process

  • Call to discuss your case and set up the initial appointment.
  • Initial Appointment: All the information and history relevant to your case is collected and the administration of psychological instruments begins.
  • Additional Appointments: Additional appointment(s) are scheduled, if necessary, to review data and results.
  • Report: The report is sent to you for your review and approval.
  • Final Report: Once you approve the report, it is sent to your attorney.
    Time to complete the process: We work quickly. Once we have finished with the appointment(s) and administration of psychological instruments, the report will normally be ready for the following week.

As part of this process, getting the best possible evaluation that supports your case is critical. We are here to work with you and ready to answer any questions while determining best next steps.

I answer ALL my calls directly and I am fully bilingual (Spanish & English). We have convenient locations in Miami and Boca Raton, and, in some cases, we have the capability of performing remote evaluations through the use of simple technology (e.g. Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, etc.).

Your Immigration Status Is Very Important To You And To Your Family, And Your Future!

Taking the right steps can make a big difference in your life. Resolving your immigration status issues will allow you to ultimately live in peace so you can focus all your energy on the future and on the well-being of your family!