Getting an Immigration Evaluation: Where to Start and How to Manage Stress
Posted by Soribel Martínez, LCSW
If you are seeking an immigration evaluation to support your claim for asylum or other reasons to stay in the United States, you probably feel nervous and overwhelmed. You know that a great deal is riding on the evaluation.
Just getting started can be confusing. Perhaps you’re not sure how to locate someone who can provide the evaluation. You may not know what will happen at the evaluation or what will be expected of you.
Ask Your Immigration Lawyer
If you are working with an immigration lawyer, a good place to start is to ask them for their recommendations. They are probably familiar with several mental health professionals who can provide evaluations.
Look for Evaluators with Special Training
Providing immigration evaluations differs from providing mental health counseling. The most effective evaluators have received specific training in immigration evaluation. They’ve taken workshops with specialists in immigration evaluation and have stayed current in this field.
As you locate potential professionals to complete your evaluation, don’t hesitate to ask them questions about their training and experience.
Likewise, don’t be afraid to ask them about their fees. Many evaluators will work with you to create a payment plan if you’re not able to afford all of their fee at once. Some may be able to provide pro-bono work as well.
To help prepare for your evaluation, you can gather information and documents ahead of time. The information you collect may vary depending upon the reasons you’re seeking to stay in the United States.
You may need to gather medical records or financial records, for example.
This is also a good time to reflect on the circumstances that have led you to get an evaluation. As best as you can, try to remember those physical, emotional, or other situations that have been traumatic. Your evaluator will need this information when you meet with them.
Your evaluator will hold several hours of interviews with you. These are usually broken up into different sessions to avoid fatiguing you.
Remember that your evaluator is not the person making the decision about your case. They are not judging your decisions or your history.
Rather, they want to talk with you about your life history and your reasons for the evaluation. An experienced evaluator will look for signs of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), potential emotional damage to you or your family if you have to leave the U.S., and more.
A well-trained evaluator will also be very knowledgeable about how trauma and separation from family can affect you. Even if you can’t remember all the details, your evaluator will know what psychological signs and reactions to look for during your interview.
How to Manage Stress
It’s completely normal to experience a great deal of stress as you prepare to have your evaluation and then as you wait for your case to be heard and a ruling received.
It’s important, though, to take steps to manage your stress. These tips are simple, straightforward things you can do on your own.
People often forget to breathe deeply when they’re under stress. Practice taking deep, slow breaths throughout the day. If you can, set aside five minutes to sit quietly and focus only on your breathing.
Physical exercise is also very helpful. Take walks or runs around your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be involved or time-consuming. Even small bits of activity can help.
Lean on your family and friends during this time. Don’t isolate yourself or push others away. Talking with others about your worries is important.
If you are preparing for an immigration evaluation or looking for an evaluator, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. I can help you through this overwhelming process and provide a guiding hand.