In Extreme and Exceptional Hardship cases, a citizen of the United States, or a legal permanent resident (LPR) of the United States, is the spouse, fiancée, parent, or child of an individual who could be deported from the United States. The U.S. citizen applies for a waiver on the basis that deportation would result in an extreme and exceptional hardship. The purpose of the psychological evaluation is to assess and explain the hardships that all the relevant family members would face if the waiver were not granted. The professional opinion rendered in a psychological evaluation greatly strengthens the case.
2. SPOUSAL ABUSE: VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
Despite the name of this act, the VAWA immigration provisions benefit both women and men. In spousal abuse cases, a woman or man from a foreign country marries a citizen or a legal permanent resident (LPR) of the United States. After the marriage, the immigrant claims the presence of domestic abuse and seeks to file for legal status separately from their U.S. citizen spouse, usually because the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse does not assist his or her spouse in this process. The foreign national can file a VAWA petition even if the marriage ended in divorce, as long as there was a connection between the divorce and domestic violence and/or abuse. The abuse can take the form of verbal, physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse. Marital incompatibilities which cause severe strains on a marriage and, in fact, could lead to divorce, do not by themselves constitute extreme cruelty. “Extreme cruelty” includes, but is not limited to, threats of violence, forceful detention, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, rape, molestation, incest (if the victim is a minor), and forced prostitution. The signs of abuse are not always obvious, and no one else has witnessed the abuse or the victim is too terrified to seek help. Examples of nonviolent acts that may also constitute extreme cruelty are social isolation of the victim, threats of deportation, threat of bodily harm, not allowing the victim to get a job, degrading the victim, and humiliating the victim privately and/or publically. The most important goal of VAWA is to allow you, as the victim, to sever dependency on your abusive spouse by allowing you to file for permanent residency, without your spouse’s consent, help, support or participation of any kind. In these cases, it is important for the therapist to evaluate the scope and nature of the abuse and the emotional impact that the abuse has had on you. In the safety of the evaluation process, you can talk about the painful ordeal and its adverse impact on your life and your emotional wellbeing. This process can also be empowering and aid in the healing process.
3. U VISA
U Visa gives legal status to immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, who have been victims of serious crimes in the United States. Such crimes including, but are not limited to, sexual abuse, domestic violence, involuntary servitude, sexual exploitation, kidnapping, trafficking, and rape. With a U Visa, the immigrant may stay and work in the U.S. for up to four years. After three years, however, a victim with a U Visa may apply for a green card. The goal of the psychological evaluation is to assess the extent of serious physical, mental, or emotional consequences of the experience. An applicant for a U Visa has to be willing to assist the police and/or District Attorney’s Office in the investigation and/or with the prosecution of the criminal.
4. POLITICAL ASYLUM
Applicants for political asylum often have been exposed to extreme deprivation, severe abuse, and even torture in their home country. Frequently, the mistreatment is associated with a political, religious, and/or ethnic persecution. At some point, the individual flees his or her country to the United States and files a Political Asylum claim. The purpose of an immigration evaluation in asylum cases is to collect information about this mistreatment and to examine the psychological impact that these circumstances have had on the immigrant. It is most common that the individual has developed psychological problems as a result of the abuse, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), severe anxiety, and/or depression. If your immigration case involves is political asylum, it is important to assess the extent and severity of your original trauma, whether you continue to suffer from psychological symptoms after your arrival in the U.S., and how long-lasting the psychological consequences could be. In addition to the legal aid you are receiving, the immigration evaluation can help you communicate and document the mental health aspects of your case.