30
Apr

What to look for in an immigration psychological evaluation?

Psychological evaluations can play a crucial role in some immigration processes that can help prevent the removal of a dear one (Hardship Waiver) or to protect someone who is currently being abused (under VAWA), or while seeking political asylum, or when seeking a waiver on the citizenship examination (N-648).

Regardless of which of these processes, the first step is to secure the guidance and advice of an immigration attorney. An immigration attorney will save you time, money, and grief!

Circling back to psychological evaluations, every psychological evaluation should have a purpose or a reason for referral. In other words, what is the goal of the evaluation. In a hardship evaluation, VAWA or asylum evaluation, the focus is to assess the psychological state of the person being evaluated. Also, the psychological assessment can be related to either current psychological state or related to how a possible future situation (e.g., the removal of someone else) can further affect the person being evaluated.

A common element necessary within a psychological evaluation is the clinical interview. As part of this step, the clinician will gather relevant information (history, family, mental health, medical, experiences, etc.). The clinical interview sets the tone and the framework for the rest of the evaluation.

However, the areas explored for a waiver of a citizenship examination will be different than when performing an evaluation for other situations (e.g., hardship, VAWA, etc.). In the case of a waiver for a citizenship examination (N-648), the purpose of the psychological evaluation is to support or prove that the person being evaluated does not have the mental or cognitive capability of neither learning the material related to the civics nor comprehending the English that are required as part of the naturalization process. These mental or cognitive issues need to be significant, chronic, and expected to endure for at least 12 months and that they are not the result or related to the use of illegal drugs. Also, it is important to use the most recent and updated N-648 Form. Also, it is key to properly answer each specific section in a factual way backed by objective findings. Finally, the psychological tests utilized for this purpose can vary depending on the impairment of the person.

In case of a hardship waiver the focus of the evaluation is to establish that the applicant(s) (the USA Resident or Citizen) is being or will be significantly affected by the potential removal of a close relative (usually a spouse or a child or a caregiver). The psychological tests establish current psychological and emotional state of the applicant. Also, it establishes how this emotional state can be exacerbated under a removal scenario. The combination of these factors should then support the concept of “extreme hardship” for the applicant in case of the removal of their close relative.

For the VAWA test, the applicant is not the USA Resident or Citizen, but rather the spouse of a USA Resident or Citizen. The applicant is also in the process of obtaining their residency. Also, a VAWA evaluation relates to this applicant being exposed to significant abuse (e.g., emotional, verbal, physical, sexual) by their USA resident/citizen spouse. The psychological evaluation and the psychological tests included for VAWA then support that the applicant is truly experiencing such abuse and she/he can separate from their USA resident/citizen spouse (to avoid abuse) and to continue with their immigration process. Some of the psychological tests usually address potential presence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in addition to other mental health conditions that have resulted from this abuse.

Finally, for political asylum situations, the psychological evaluation serves to document the abuse, persecution or mistreatment inflicted to the victim in a foreign country. The abuse or persecution may contribute to the development or to the exacerbation of a mental health condition. Once again, the psychological tests used to establish this are selected according to the specifics of the case.

An essential part of the psychological evaluation is to ensure that the clinician uses established psychological instruments or inventories that have been proven to have validity and reliability. Also, it is critical that the clinician selects the combination of instruments that will help establish the applicant’s case in a clear and definitive manner.

Once the clinical interview is completed and the different psychological tests are administered and then scored and interpreted, the report should be written ensuring that all these elements contribute to establishing the purpose of the evaluation. Usually, it is recommended that the applicant reviews the report to confirm that all information and history is accurate. Then, this “approved” report can be sent to the applicant’s immigration attorney.

It is also important that the clinician and the immigration attorney maintain proper communication, and coordination to make sure that the report complies with the case requirements.

Finally, the deadline should be discussed and established at the beginning of the process. Complying with immigration application deadlines is imperative. time is of essence!

Call us to discuss your specific situation and needs, and we will ensure an expedited and professional process and report.