The process of seeking asylum or citizenship in the United States can be a challenging process on individuals and their families, particularly when rejection of those claims means splitting families apart. In those circumstances, a psychological evaluation can provide valuable insight to the judge into those challenges and potential impact of a rejection decision. But what makes for a good immigration evaluation? What is important in addressing the needs of these clients? While there may be many ways of conducting these evaluations, the most effective evaluations hit on a few key elements: the family’s story, their current functioning, the potential impact of a negative decision, and the research that supports those claims.

A good immigration evaluation should provide context about the family. It should identify who they are, why they came to the United States, and the ways they have integrated into their community. It should identify not only the immediate family, but note extended family and other social support, to provide context to the potential impact. To address current functioning, an immigration evaluation can benefit from use of psychological testing (such as the Symptom Checklist-90 or the Psychiatric Diagnostic Screening Questionnaire) as well as a summary of major medical issues or mental health history. These aspects highlight hardships the family faces and sets the stage for addressing the potential impact of deportation. Discussions of the potential impact should highlight these hardships and trauma, if applicable. It is important an immigration evaluation captures just how damaging deportation could be to a family and their support system in whatever means may apply, be they financially, psychologically, practically, as well as the potential impact on any children. These conclusions should be supported through a summary of relevant research. There are many studies that suggest the forced absence of a family member can have negative consequences on a spouse and children, thus research can provide valuable support to a family’s case.

To summarize, immigration evaluations are at their best when they cover the key aspects outlined above. They tell a story for the family, not only those who are seeking asylum or citizenship, but those important to them. They provide an understanding of where the family has been, where they are now, and what could happen in the future. They support these claims with testing and research. Finding an experienced immigration evaluator who can encompass all these points is key to best assisting your immigration clients.