Waiver from US Citizenship Examination
The N-648 is the disability waiver that exempts applicants for U.S. citizenship from
1. Demonstrating they can speak, read, and write English, and/or
2. Passing a test of U.S. history and civics.
With a waiver, the applicant can have the interview in his/her native language and will not have to answer questions about U.S. history and government. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) relies on the medical opinion of the applicant’s doctor in deciding whether to grant the waiver. CIS generally makes a decision as to whether to grant or deny citizenship at the naturalization interview. Under current law, the N-648 must be submitted at the same time as the N-400 application for citizenship.
Cancellation of Removal from US
Deportation and removal is the area of immigration law in which a psychological evaluation is most likely to be required. In an immigration removal case a non-permanent resident must establish that his or her removal would cause “extreme and unusual hardship” to a qualifying relative (i.e. their U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse, child or parent). When extreme psychological hardship is uncovered through a psychological evaluation, pending deportation may be cancelled by the court (“cancellation of removal”) and legal permanent residence granted (“green card”).
Denial of Admission to US
An area of immigration law in which psychological evaluations are often used is in support of adjustment status or visa application when a waiver of overstay (or other inadmissibility problem) is necessary (e.g. I-601 Waiver). A well-drafted psychological report can persuade immigration court that “extreme” psychological hardship to the applicant’s U.S. citizen spouse, child or parent will result if the application for legal admission to the United States is denied. The result can be a grant of legal permanent residence in the United States.
Political asylum are refugees who often have been exposed to political imprisonment, religious persecution, extreme deprivation, torture and various forms of psychological distress in their home country. They seek “asylum” or safety from their country of origin within the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act (U.S. Code Section 208a). Quite frequently, these asylum applicants experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other emotional difficulties which make “telling their life story” difficult or impossible. The nature and extent of their psychological impairment can be established by a thorough psychological evaluation, which should be conducted by a psychologist trained in detecting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The DSM-5 notes that the clinical expression of the symptoms of PTSD may vary culturally.
Permanent Residency with Domestic Abuse
Non-permanent resident victims of domestic abuse who are married to a U. S. citizen may be eligible for permanent residency in the U.S. if they can establish through a psychological evaluation that verbal, physical or sexual abuse has occurred within their relationship. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides for immigration benefits to men as well as women who have been physically and mentally abused by their U.S. citizen spouse.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status. NOTE: On November 20, 2014, the President made an announcement extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years.
This benefit is denied to any young person who has a serious criminal conviction like domestic violence unless rehabilitation is established. The psychological evaluation can help determine if the conviction may have been the result of a mental disorder, prior parental abuse, or other cognitive deficit.
U-Visa / T-Visa
A U-Visa may be granted to an non-permanent resident living illegally in the U.S. if that individual is able to demonstrate, through a psychologist’s evaluation, that they have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of being a victim of a crime that occurred in the U.S. and that they were helpful to legal authorities (e.g. police, U.S. gov’t) in providing information that assists with prosecution of the crime.
A special T-Visa is available for victims of human (sex) trafficking. In each case, a psychologist’s evaluation can be extremely helpful in highlighting the hardship issues pertaining to the case.