Dr. Shaifali Sandhya
Life-Coaching and Intercultural Relationships
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Mental Health Assessment for Cultural and Immigration Purposes
In the last decade, Dr. Sandhya has worked with diverse cultural populations and on a variety of issues related to international mental health in different countries around the globe. She also collaborates with attorneys representing immigrants. Psychological immigration evaluations can be used in immigration related to: spousal abuse (applications of Violence Against Women's Act); extreme hardship cases; political asylum cases or ongoing legal cases against new immigrants to the US. Each immigration situation is unique and it is our goal to provide a place where clients can feel safe and respected.
In Extreme Hardship cases, a relative of the citizen of the United States or of a legal permanent resident of the United States such as a spouse, fiancée, parent, or child of an individual may face the threat of deportation. An applicant can apply for four kinds of waiver on the basis that deportation would result in an extreme and exceptional hardship; there are many factors and considerations that comprise hardship:
family ties and impact
social and cultural impact
health conditions and care
The list above identifies factors that may bear on whether a denial of admission would result in extreme hardship and one which the USCIS has determined weighs heavily in support of finding extreme hardship. The purpose of the Immigrant Hardship Evaluation would be to assess the presence of one of the circumstances listed above, to obtain reliable evidence to support the existence of such circumstance(s), and to show that the circumstance will cause extreme hardship to the qualifying relative. The mere presence of an enumerated circumstance does not create a presumption of extreme hardship. The ultimate determination of extreme hardship must be based on the totality of the circumstances present in the individual case (source: www.uscis.gov)
The professional opinion along with supporting and reliable rendered in a psychological evaluation can strengthen the case for the immigrant.
Spousal Abuse Assessment (Applications for VAWA or Violence Against Women Act)
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994 and protects victims of domestic violence when the domestic abuse is or was perpetrated by a U.S. citizen (USC) or a lawful permanent resident (LPR). VAWA is applicable for both women and men. In spousal abuse cases, a foreigner married to a citizen or a legal permanent resident (LPR) of the United States can file a VAWA petition even if the marriage ended in divorce, as long as there was a presence of domestic violence and/or abuse in the relationship. 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.
Sometimes, the abuse can be subtle and nuanced and is not immediately obvious. In some cases, there is a collaborating evidence of medical records from hospitals, witness testimony, and police records. However, in many other cases, no one else has witnessed the abuse and the victim may be afraid of seeking professional help. Threats to deport, bodily harm, or isolation from work or social interaction, and so forth are some examples of abusive behavior.
The most important goal of psychologist conducting a mental health assessment for VAWA purpose will be to collect data in order to report the scope and nature of the abuse and it's emotional impact on you.
The individual seeking asylum bears the burden of proof and must put forth the evidence establishing all the elements of the claim. If an asylum seeker had to flee on short notice they may not have time to gather documents, and the only proof an individual may have is his testimony. A case can be established on testimony alone, if the asylum seeker is considered to be credible. Establishing credibility in the legal system does not consider how trauma endured by asylum seekers affects their ability to provide believable testimony.
Asylum seekers can endure mistreatment, deprivation, severe abuse, and torture in their home country; their flight may be associated with political, religious, and/or ethnic persecution.
A psychologist working with political asylum clients may collect information related to trauma, collateral reports, reviews documentation, and documents the psychological impact of the trauma.