Caring for Refugees with Mental Health Problems: Difficulties Encountered by Providers Requesting Exemptions from United States Citizenship Examinations
- Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 34, Number 4, November 2023
- pp. 1466-1478
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Mental health providers caring for refugees should be aware that obtaining citizenship is critical to stability and safety for their patients. In the United States (U.S.), obtaining citizenship requires applicants to pass an examination exhibiting working knowledge of English and foundational knowledge of U.S. civics. For refugees with mental health disorders that impair cognition, this may present insurmountable barriers. The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers form N-648 to request exemption from these requirements. However, the form can be difficult to complete in a manner acceptable to USCIS. In this paper, the authors present preliminary data on citizenship-related mental health evaluations and subsequent applications for 40 patients seen in a university-based refugee mental health clinic. We simplify the process into three phases, and present three cases highlighting specific complexities involved. Our experiences and recommendations may help other mental health providers prepare to advocate for their refugee patients.