Learning about the Immigration Hardship Evaluation Process in Chicago

February 1, 2017
Anna Jankowska, LCPC

By Anna Jankowska, MA, CEAP, SAP, LCPC

Anna Jankowska is a mental health, addiction, and substance abuse counselor with over 17 years of experience and has specialized training and skill in working with individuals, groups and communities to improve mental health outcomes. NPI number: 1598843526

By CCI Team

Moving to a new country is always challenging.  People do it for better opportunities, safer living, or to earn enough money to support family still living in their home county.  Adjusting to the new life may be particularly difficult for those families whose members do not have legal status.  Obtaining legal status in the United States is a long and complicated process.  Those who lived in the U.S. illegally are required by law to leave the country to apply for status change, but for many families that means long-term separation.

Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility

One way to avoid the separation of the family is to apply for a waiver of grounds of inadmissibility.  If the waiver is granted, the immigrant who would otherwise have to leave the country for three or ten years, may remain in the U.S. while obtaining the permanent resident status.  Before the waiver can be granted, the family needs to prove that a qualifying relative, who is a citizen or a legal permanent resident, would suffer extreme hardship if the person applying for the waiver left the country.

Qualifying relatives are typically parents or spouses of undocumented immigrants.  As part of the immigration process, they can submit to a psychological evaluation to demonstrate extreme hardship.  While the psychological evaluation is not mandatory, it can be very helpful in the immigration process, because it can help the family present a fuller picture of their life difficulties to the immigration judge.  It is important to note that according to the immigration law, the mere separation of the family and expected suffering that comes with it is not considered hardship.

What is Extreme Hardship

Extreme hardship is more than what an average person is expected to experience when separated from a family member.  Unfortunately there are no clear criteria explaining what the immigration office considers extreme hardship, so each case has to be explained individually.  The hardship evaluation will explain difficulties the qualifying relative will likely experience in different areas of his or her life.  Those difficulties may be related to physical or mental health, financial problems, or lost educational or career opportunities.

The Evaluation Process

Most people seek the hardship evaluation at the suggestion of their immigration attorney.  However, a referral from an attorney is not required.  The hardship evaluation is done by a psychologist or mental health counselor, whose role is to collect information from the qualifying relative and other family members and write a report that will be submitted to the immigration office.  Depending on the individual situation, the number of information-gathering meetings can change, but typically two to three meetings may be needed.

Immigration judges take everything into consideration before making a decision about granting or denying the waiver.  While the hardship evaluation does not guarantee the outcome of the case, it can help significantly because it presents additional information that you or your attorney may otherwise not communicate to the immigration office.

It is not easy to deal with immigration laws, but remember that there are many people able and willing to help.  Working with immigration attorneys and mental health counselors familiar with the immigration process can improve your chances of getting your green card.

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