As the violence associated with protests in Venezuela continues, it is extremely important for Venezuelans who need refuge in the United States to know their options. Unfortunately, we have heard reports this week of misinformation and misunderstandings regarding legal protections available to Venezuelans in the U.S. This bad information could cause these people who desperately need help to make choices that will only multiply their problems.
For example, on February 27 on America Noticias, a Spanish-language news show, an attorney stated categorically that Venezuelans unlawfully present in the United States can now apply for political asylum because the government has softened the requirements for asylum in order to accommodate Venezuelan applicants in a time of crisis. This is not true. The government has not modified asylum requirements for Venezuelans. By taking action based on this piece of false information, Venezuelans seeking asylum could be detained upon arrival and sent to a detention center for weeks or months while their claim is investigated. If an immigration judge finds they committed fraud in regards to undocumented status, they may be deported and could be barred permanently from returning to the U.S.
THE OPTIONS: SEEKING PROTECTION IN THE U.S.
ASYLUM. Some Venezuelans may be eligible to apply for asylum after arriving in the U.S. To be eligible for asylum, one must ask for asylum at the port of entry into the U.S. (airport, seaport, or border crossing) or apply within one year of arrival. (Though there are extenuating circumstances depending on the situation.) The applicant must demonstrate that he is unwilling and unable to return to his country of residence on account of either past persecution or the credible threat of future persecution. By persecution it must be some kind of severe harm, more than simply harassment, from a government entity or a group that the government is unwilling and unable to control.
Not all Venezuelans qualify for asylum. Losing a claim can result in deportation and the loss of the ability to return to the U.S. in the future.
The U.S. has an extremely strict approval process for granting asylum, and it can be complicated and expensive. Consult with an attorney before making the decision to apply for asylum.
TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) allows people from designated countries a safe haven in the U.S. for a two year period. TPS is a much simpler, easier process compared to asylum.
Venezuelans have not yet been granted TPS by Congress. In a press conference with Congressman Marc Veasey last week, we asked Congress for quick passage of TPS. We will continue to work to make sure this proposal is at the forefront of the Congressional agenda.
Legislators need to act now to offer expanded protections for Venezuelans. Find out how to contact U.S. Senators and Representatives here: Find contact information for Senators and Representatives.
Our thoughts go out to Venezuelans everywhere during the struggle for a better world. May you soon find peace and freedom.
*Before making any decisions which may affect immigration status, always consult with an experienced immigration attorney. If you or someone you know needs help with such issues, please contact us today to schedule your consultation.