Immigration Testing: What to Expect
Moving and assimilating to the United States can be an exciting, but also challenging experience. The same is true about naturalization, the process of applying for US citizenship. Even after years of living in the US, some people struggle to meet the requirements to become US citizens, particularly passing the citizenship exam.
There are many reasons why someone might find it difficult complete the US citizenship examination. In some cases, it’s possible to qualify for the N648 waiver if the person has a developmental disability or a mental impairment such as attention deficit or is unable to retain new information due to a variety of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body disease, Parkinson’s disease, or after suffering a debilitating condition such as stroke or traumatic brain injury.
Let’s take a look at some common questions that many people ask when considering whether to apply for a medical exception for the English and American civics examination.
Q: Why do I even have to do a psychological evaluation for my immigration case?
A: In a way, it is not particularly fair that people have to subject themselves to rigorous personal questioning when there are lots of natural-born American citizens that don’t know much about American history or government. But try to think of it this way: the US federal government needs to have a specific and consistent procedure to determine who qualifies for naturalization and that applicants have a basic working knowledge of their soon-to-be nation. These standards used to be more relaxed, but as more and more immigrants flock to the United States for a variety of reasons and in the face increased foreign threats, the US Department of Homeland Security had to tighten their standards. The main goal is to make sure that the naturalization of these individuals is in the best interest and safety of the country’s existing citizenry.
Q: What will my psychological evaluation for immigration consist of?
A: The psychological evaluation consists of an interview with a licensed psychologist and the completion of several tests. These “tests” aren’t like a school/academic pass-fail tests, so don’t get too freaked out. (More on that later.) From start to finish, the whole process often lasts about 3-4 hours. The immigration attorney you’re working with might suggest one or more psychologists with whom they work on a regular basis or might give you complete freedom to search for your own psychologist.
Q: What can I expect in the interview for my immigration psychological evaluation?
A: It’s common for the psychologist to interview the individual applying for citizenship alone. You might be asked questions about your personal history – i.e. family, childhood, history of mental illnesses, medical history, etc. A family member may also be asked to join you during the interview if you are experiencing difficulties remembering such personal facts and answering related questions. So, it would be a good idea to think about how you might answer such questions ahead of time. Those questions can feel emotionally loaded, so if you think about your feelings ahead of time and have an answer prepared, you can feel calmer during the interview.
An important thing to remember during these interviews is that the psychologist doesn’t expect you to know all the answers to his or her questions right off the top of your head, so it’s a good idea to bring certain materials to the interview session such as a list of your current medications, a listing of your medical problems, and the names and contact information of your primary care physician and psychiatrist or psychologist if you happen to be seeing one. With the level of stress that the naturalization process includes, it would almost be strange if you didn’t have any kind of fears or concerns, and this often causes people to forget even the most basic facts pertaining to their health status. Emotional issues such as anxiety and depression can also have a negative impact on your ability to remember pertinent information. Expressing such feelings isn’t going to make the psychologist mark you as a big “no” in their report, and will provide the psychologist with important information that may be useful in writing your report. As strange as it sounds, they’re just looking for you, to be honest, and be yourself.
Q: What can I expect in the test?
A: It can take 2-4 hours to complete testing for an applicant seeking a medical certification for disability exception (N648) for the US citizenship exam. The tests are selected by the psychologist based on the information from the initial interview. Some of the tests are multiple choice questionnaires. Others are puzzles or questions that you’re expected to answer to the best of your ability.
After all the tests are completed, the psychologist will score everything, marry the results with the information gathered during the clinical interview, and write a report with the findings of the evaluation and make recommendations. You can expect most reports to take about 14 business days after the completion of testing.
Q: If I get the chance to pick my own psychologist, what should I be looking for?
A: Definitely look for a neuropsychologist who is well-versed in immigration evaluations; you don’t want someone trying to figure this out for the first time for your application.
The psychological evaluation component of applying for US naturalization can feel like one of the scariest parts, but it doesn’t have to be. As stressful as it is, it’ll be easier for you to get through it if you just remember that the evaluators and you all want the same thing – an evaluation that accurately reflects whether you are able to prepare for and pass the US citizenship exam.
Are you or a loved one going through the immigration process and want more information about the psychological requirements and services available? You can call us at (305) 501-0133 or schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult.