Living in a new country as a refugee or trying to change your immigration status can be very stressful. Maybe you are worried that a family member will face deportation. No matter the situation, you want to do everything in your power to ensure that you or your loved one will be able to legally stay in the United States. How could a psychological evaluation help you?

Immigration Psychological Evaluation

For many immigration applications, a psychological evaluation can support your case. This evaluation provides a clear portrayal of your story and describes the hardship you have already faced or expect to face in the future due to deportation. If you have suffered any psychological or physical abuse, it is valuable to have the mental impact of this abuse well documented. 

This article provides a brief description of the kinds of cases in which a psychological evaluation may be helpful. However, this is not legal advice. Consult your attorney about whether a psychological evaluation would support your case. 

Extreme Hardship Waiver

In extreme hardship cases, a waiver can be provided to an applicant if their removal from the US would cause “extreme hardship” for a family member who is a citizen or lawful permanent resident. Your case must show that there will be extreme hardship if family members are separated due to deportation or if family members must relocate with the one being deported. Extreme hardship is defined by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services as a hardship that is more than what is commonly expected for family separation or relocation. Factors in determining hardship may include access to health care, finances, education, caring for family members, safety, and social or cultural impact. 

A psychological report can help to clearly document your situation and the hardship that would result in either family separation or relocation. If separation or relocation may include mental health concerns, a psychological report is invaluable to describe how mental health is likely to be impacted. 

Cheerful aunt laughing and giving cheese to niece while enjoying with family in kitchen at home during weekend

Spousal Abuse (VAWA) 

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was created to provide a pathway to legal status for family members who have experienced abuse from a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). An immigrant family member is usually reliant on a U.S. citizen or LPR to petition for legal status on their behalf. But for cases in which there has been abuse, VAWA provides protection for individuals to apply without the knowledge, consent, or participation of their abuser. This protection is not just for women, but includes all spouses, children, and parents who have suffered abuse and who would otherwise be dependent on their abuser to apply for immigrant status. 

Abuse in these cases is described as “battery and extreme cruelty.”  This includes physical and sexual abuse as well as non-violent acts or threats of violence that are used to control the victim (ex. isolation, blaming, threats of deportation, etc.) 

A psychological evaluation can be provided as evidence to demonstrate battery and extreme cruelty. Meeting with a psychologist for an evaluation allows clear documentation of the psychological and emotional hardship you have experienced. It allows your story to be portrayed accurately and compassionately in a comprehensive written report. 

U Visa 

A U Visa is similar to a VAWA case in that it allows an individual to self-petition for legal status due to having been the victim of a crime. It provides protection for those who have “suffered substantial mental or physical abuse.” In order to meet requirements, the victim must be willing to participate with law enforcement. 

In these cases, a psychological evaluation can be helpful to document and provide evidence for the mental and emotional impact of abuse. 


Lastly, a psychological evaluation may be helpful if you are seeking asylum. In order to receive asylum status in the United States, you must show that you have suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution in your home country. Persecution may be based on factors such as race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group experiencing discrimination. 

A psychological evaluation documents the persecution or suffering you have already experienced before coming to the United States or the reason why you are fearful that you would not be safe if you returned to your home country. It can also help document the reasons why you did not apply within the year deadline of arrival in the US, if applicable. 

In all of these cases, you want a professional who will treat your case with compassion and expertise. I will work closely with your immigration attorney to create a helpful report that clearly documents what you have been through, your current situation, and any hardship you expect in the future. A psychological evaluation gives you confidence that your unique immigration story will be heard and that evidence for mental health impact will be presented. 


Extreme Hardship Waiver:
U Visa:

Melissa Winfield, PsyD
Melissa Winfield, PsyD

I help children, teenagers and parents find hope and resilience through the tough times.