Psychological Evaluations in T Visas

Should I include a psychological evaluation with my client's initial T visa application?

CAST does not recommend including a psychological evaluation in an initial T visa filing as the purpose of a psychological evaluation in the T visa context is limited. Psychological evaluations serve two main purposes in a T visa application:

  1. To corroborate the applicant's physical presence on account of trafficking. A psychological evaluation can be used to show how trauma impacted the victim’s ability to come forward sooner and how their day-to-day life has been impacted by the trafficking trauma, keeping them in the U.S.
  2. To support the applicant's extreme hardship argument. An evaluation could be used to show the hardship that would result if the victim were to lose access to supportive services (e.g., case management or counseling) if they were removed from the U.S.

An overly broad psychological evaluation could weaken or undermine the survivor's T visa application. For instance, psychological evaluations often include extensive information regarding the client’s background, medical history, and history of prior abuse or other victimization. Sometimes this extensive history can raise potential inadmissibility issues related to harm to self or others. An overly broad psychological evaluation that highlights unrelated victimization may distract the adjudicator and undermine the applicant's trafficking argument, in addition to increasing the chances of containing inconsistent information. 

CAST recommends waiting until receipt of a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID) to submit a psychological evaluation, rather than submitting one with the initial application. In waiting for an RFE, you can assist the psychologist or therapist to tailor the evaluation to the issues raised by USCIS, whether physical presence, an exception to law enforcement cooperation, credibility, or extreme hardship. Affirmatively including a psychological evaluation in the initial application can be problematic because it is hard to anticipate with certainty the issues that USCIS may have during the adjudication of the case.

Remember that a psychological evaluation is not a substitute for trafficking-specific victim services or ongoing counseling. 

For a more in-depth explanation on psychological evaluations, see CAST's Psychological Evaluations Advisory

For more information on physical presence, see CAST's Physical Presence Advisory.