Even from afar Venezuelans suffer daily the deterioration of their country in all aspects of life including the loss of institutionality, the decadent economy and the constant violation of human rights. Nevertheless beyond the emotional impact, Venezuelan immigrants in the United States are also starting to suffer consequences beyond their control in their efforts to comply with US immigration laws. A clear example of how the Venezuelan crisis is affecting their immigrant situation is the fact that the Venezuelan Government cannot fulfill the basic duty that every country has which is to issue and extend passports to their citizens within a reasonable period of time. The inefficiency of the Venezuelan Government regarding the issuance and renovation of passports severely affects the following immigration aspects:
Visa issuance: Venezuelans cannot obtain visas without a valid passport this includes initial visas and visa extensions.
Restriction on international travel: Even those Venezuelans who entered the United States with a valid visa cannot travel outside the US because when they return their admission will be limited to their current passport’s expiration date. This impacts those persons whose passports are close to expire.
Extensions of Legal Status in the United States: Those Venezuelans whose passports are already expired have to wait long periods of time to obtain a visa appointment and thus start their passport renewal process or to obtain a new passport. Additionally, the USCIS is issuing letters requesting additional evidence to adjudicate the petitions for applications for a change status or extensions. Since Venezuelans are unable to present a copy of a new or renewed passport these petitions or applications run the risk of being denied.
Legal limbo before the international community: In the absence of a passport which identifies them as Venezuelan citizens they do not have the possibility of being admitted to another country, including to their own country.
The most serious situation is that of Venezuelans who need to leave the United States as consequence of an adverse decision by the immigration authorities and they will not be able to do so since they cannot be admitted into any other country without a valid passport. This puts Venezuelans in a critical situation regarding their immigration status since their illegal presence exposes them to severe immigration consequences.
Venezuelans find themselves in a legal limbo created by the absence of an essential document which identifies them as citizens of that country and which allows them to travel internationally. Immigration attorneys will need to begin advocating for the cause of Venezuelan citizens and demonstrate that their immigrant situation must be considered as exceptional for various immigrant processes and that in many cases the violation of their immigrant status is a direct consequence of extraordinary circumstances which are beyond of their control.