Immigration psychologist are independent medical examiners (IME) that conduct forensic psychological evaluations to be used in immigration cases. One type of case is based on The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which protects both men and women. It also includes provisions that address the needs of specific groups, such as Native American women and LGBTQ+ individuals.
One of the primary roles of the immigration psychologist is to assess for psychological abuse – a form of abuse in which one person in a relationship uses tactics such as manipulation, control, humiliation, threats and intimidation to harm the other person’s mental and emotional well-being. VAWA includes provisions that address psychological abuse and recognizes it as a form of domestic violence.
The psychological or emotional abuse purports to control and dominate the other person and it can have serious and long-lasting effects on a person’s mental health. Psychological or emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse, resulting in mental health complications such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.
Overall, immigration psychologists are retained at the request of the immigration attorney who is handling the VAWA case. Not all cases require the expertise of an immigration psychologist. An immigration psychologist serves as an independent medical examiner who has expertise in the psycho-legal issues that are relevant to the VAWA case. The immigration psychologist must understand rules of admissibility to determine whether the testing and procedures used are valid and reliable enough to stand the scrutiny of the court and other experts. The immigration psychologist must understand how to provide testimony as required by the case.
The immigration psychologist and immigration attorney have a working relationship that must protect the independence of opinion and the objectivity of each professional.