Emigrating is a challenging process for Venezuelans. (Wikimedia)
As a native Venezuelan, it breaks my heart to see what has happened to the country of my birth. So many, including my family and friends who are still there, live in fear and want, remembering days when they felt safer and knew security and abundance.
Today, the economy is in shambles. Shortages of everyday necessities like toilet paper continues to plague residents, who stand for hours in line to get into near-empty stores. The streets are dangerous. Unemployment is rampant. Extreme legal uncertainty has lead to an ever increasing number of businesses shutting down their operations, further increasing levels of unemployment and decreasing hope for the future among the Venezuelan people.
For these reasons, it is not surprising that Venezuelans have been emigrating in record numbers. Academics and business leaders have stated that emigration from Venezuela increased significantly during the last years of Chávez’s presidency and especially during the presidency of Nicolás Maduro.
The analysis of a study by Central University of Venezuela titled Venezuelan Community Abroad. A New Method of Exile by El Universal states that the “Bolivarian diaspora” (Venezuelans moving abroad) in Venezuela has been caused by the “deterioration of both the economy and the social fabric, rampant crime, uncertainty and lack of hope for a change in leadership in the near future”.
Subero found that every forty minutes a Venezuelan obtains a US resident visa, and that the majority of Venezuelan immigrants to the US are middle class or upper-middle class. One in every six is in the traditional professions, a real “brain drain” in Venezuela.
In 2014, reports emerged showing a high number of education professionals taking flight from educational positions in Venezuela along with the million+ other Venezuelans that had left the country during the presidency of Hugo Chávez, according to Iván de la Vega, a sociologist at Simón Bolívar University. The Central University of Venezuela lost around 700 faculty members between 2011 and 2012. About 240 faculty members also quit at Simón Bolívar University.
Additionally, entrepreneurs emigrated from Venezuela due to government price controls, extortion by government officials, lack of production inputs and the foreign exchange controls. Accountants and administrators left to countries experiencing economic growth, such as Chile, Mexico, Peru, and the United States, so they could have a chance at being promoted in their careers.
Due to the worsening political crisis in Venezuela, more and more Venezuelans will continue to leave home for the United States and other countries. Venezuelan journalist Carlos Subero researched immigration patterns from Venezuela to the US since 1997 and found that it has surged from 2,500 to 10,000 per year.
As you can see on the graph below, immigration jumped to the 10,000/yr mark in 2005, when Hugo Chávez announced the Salto Adelante, hacia la construcción del Socialismo del Siglo XXI (Leap Forward, towards building 21st Century Socialism) and began expropriating private lands and businesses:
For the fifth year in a row Venezuela is top on the official ranking list of Latin American countries with the largest amount of winners in the Diversity Visa Program, better known as US visa lottery. While applying for a US visa through the lottery system has been a popular choice for Venezuelans, applications for asylum have gained momentum, as well. According to information supplied by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): “Between 2003 and 2004, the number of (Venezuelan) refugees doubled from 598 to 1,256, and between 2004 and 2009, the number of Venezuelan refugees was five-fold higher, up to 6,221. By that date, there was also a log of 1,580 Venezuelan applicants for refuge.”
In addition to the visa lottery and difficult-to-obtain asylum status, the EB-5 visa is another excellent choice for those Venezuelans who have money to invest.
By investing $500,000 in a U.S. enterprise, applicants obtain green cards for their entire family including ALL unmarried children under 21 entitling conditional permanent resident status in less than 12 months from application, with lawful permanent residency after a few years. Typically the investment is returned to the investor within 5 years. But the green cards are gained as soon as the money is invested.
Political and economic uncertainty, state intervention in the economy, and a volatile legal and regulatory framework make Venezuela a difficult place for investors. However, with EB-5, not only do Venezuelans gain the opportunity to make wise investments, but they and their families also gain the option to live in the US.
Though it is my honor to help my fellow countrymen gain opportunities and hope for a better life here in the US, I believe we – as a united Venezuelan community abroad – must do what we can to work for change in our homeland. May we never forget the glory and beauty Venezuela has shown us in the past. May we band together to do all that we can for our loved ones who are still there. May we have hope for the future of our beloved country.
If you or someone you know needs the help of an immigration attorney, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.