What Are Immigration Psychological Evaluations?


Here’s a scenario for you: I’m out at a networking event, chatting away, learning about others and their work, and sharing what I do when someone asks:

“What’s an immigration evaluation?”

I’m so engaged in my work and this community that I often talk away about what I do without even considering that there are (naturally) people who won’t know exactly what an immigration evaluation is and why they are so important.

Perhaps you’re one of those people who landed here after googling the same question above! So, to help, I’ve put together my complete guide to answer it – keep reading to learn more.

First Things First: What is an Immigration Evaluation?

An immigration evaluation, also known as an immigration psychological evaluation, is simply any type of mental health evaluation used in an immigration case. 

The specific requirements and procedures for immigration evaluations vary depending on the immigration category under consideration.  However, the evaluation typically involves assessing various aspects of the individual’s background and circumstances to determine their eligibility for immigration. This may include information about their family, trauma history, and mental health.

What are the Different Types of Immigration Evaluations?

There are many types of immigration evaluations, but the most common fall into one of three main categories:

  1. Extreme hardship waiver & cancellation of removal: In these, you evaluate a US citizen or LPR (lawful permanent resident) to determine how they would be affected if their immigrant family member was not permitted to remain in the US.
  2. Asylum, VAWA, U & T visas: These types of evaluations are all based on a past traumatic experience. In these, you are evaluating the immigrant to determine the trauma’s effect on them. 
  3. Naturalization waivers or N-648: This is a waiver for someone unable to take the naturalization test due to cognitive or severe psychological impairments. 

Who Can Complete Immigration Evaluations?

Most licensed mental health clinicians can complete most of these evaluations. Naturalization waivers (N-648) can only be completed by a medical doctor or a clinical psychologist licensed to practice in the United States. 

How Do You Complete an Immigration Evaluation?

A trained clinician meets with clients in person or via a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform.  Clinicians usually meet with clients 1-3 times, but this varies depending on the type of case, age of the client, and timeline.

The clinician asks about the client’s background, daily life, mental health, and other relevant factors. Depending on the case, clinicians may also use additional questionnaires or testing to complete their assessment.

The clinician then writes a comprehensive report that assesses any mental health symptoms within the scope of an immigration case and summarizes their findings and how they relate to the immigration case. Clinicians also offer recommendations for ongoing treatment, if relevant.  

How Can Licensed Mental Health Professionals Offer Immigration Evaluations?

While there are no formal certifications, it’s important to be well-trained before doing these evaluations so that you can be sure to address the essential points in your report and ensure that you are answering the clinical questions that immigration services are asking.

Where Can I Learn More?

My FREE Quickstart Guide to Immigration Evaluations offers you everything you need to know about how to get started, the core information you should consider, and your next steps if you feel this is the right path for you.

How Can I Get Training to Do Immigration Evaluations?

If immigration evaluations sound like they would be a good fit for you, or you want to add them to your practice, you can get comprehensive training and ongoing support through the Immigration Evaluation Institute.  Check out Comprehensive Immigration Evaluations for more information.

Cecilia Racine: Immigration Evaluation Therapist

I’m Cecilia Racine, and I teach therapists how to help immigrants through my online courses. As a bilingual immigrant myself, I know the unique perspective that these clients are experiencing. I’ve conducted over 500 evaluations and work with dozens of lawyers in various states. Immigrants are my passion, I believe they add to the fabric of our country.

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