Employment Law

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Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan Immigrants

Work Permits and Deportation relief

On March 8, 2021, the White House announced that Venezuelan immigrants living in the United States would receive work permits and deportation relief under a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS). With a TPS, the U.S. government grants short-term humanitarian protection to immigrants whose native countries are working to recover from natural disasters, have been impacted by armed conflict, are battling an epidemic, or otherwise cannot guarantee their citizens’ safe return.

Temporary Protected Status Designation Meaning and Duration

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas has designated the TPS for Venezuela to continue 18 months, until September 9, 2022. This designation was extended to Venezuela because conditions in that country—such as malnutrition and hunger, the presence of non-state armed forces, poor infrastructure, and oppression—prevent nationals from returning there safely. Countries can receive TPS when they have conditions categorized in one or more of these three statutory bases: extraordinary and temporary conditions, environmental disasters, or ongoing armed conflict.

“The living conditions in Venezuela reveal a country in turmoil, unable to protect its own citizens,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.”

Understanding Eligibility

According to data from the Center for Migration Studies, there are approximately 275,000 undocumented Venezuelan nationals living in the United States, and they can benefit from the TPS. As conditions in their country have worsened, more and more undocumented Venezuelans have come to the United States.

This new designation allows Venezuelan nationals who reside in the United States to submit initial applications for TPS if they meet specified eligibility requirements. Note that only those who can prove consistent residence in the United States, as of March 8, 2021, may apply for TPS. Individuals who do not have nationality but last resided in Venezuela may also be eligible. Venezuelans who were turned back at the U.S. border or sent to Mexico as they waited for U.S. immigration courts to process their asylum claims may likely not qualify for this protection.

Receiving TPS is not automatic. Individuals who wish to obtain TPS must submit an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within the designated 180-day registration period (March 9 – September 5, 2021). In addition, they may apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and travel authorization. All those applying for TPS must undergo background and security checks, which will help determine eligibility. Further details about eligibility and EAD applications are provided in the Federal Register Notice (FRN).

Other Designations and Considerations

In addition, the FRN provides information regarding Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Venezuelan nationals and how they can apply for DED-related EADs. Those covered by DED are protected from having to leave the United States, usually for a specific period of time. The DED for Venezuelan nationals was established during the Trump administration on January 19, 2021. It extends for 18 months, through July 20, 2022.

Even if they are covered by DED, individuals who think they are eligible for TPS are advised to apply during the initial registration period. Once the DED has expired, they may not qualify for late TPS filing. Those who apply for TPS, receive it, and are also covered by DED, are not required to apply for EADs under both programs.

Note that DED is ordered by a U.S. president and is an administrative stay of removal. Unlike TPS, it is not an immigration status. DED and TPS have different requirements and fees.

Venezuelan nationals who have questions about the TPS application should not hesitate to consult legal counsel. An immigration attorney can explain all available options and guide the sometimes complicated process.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.