Some of the thousands of Venezuelans who made it to TT. Photo by Angelo M Marcelle –
Venezuelans with a registration card allowing them to work in TT have been left in limbo sinceJanuary 1, when their extended permits expired.
The Government granted year-long work permits via the Immigration Division to 16,523 Venezuelans in May 2019.
In August 2020, the permits were extended until December of that year as a result of the covid19 pandemic. In January 2021 a second six-month extension and re-registration were announced. More than 13,800 refugees re-registered.
An unknown number received a third extension in September, which in some cases expired in November and in others in December 2021.
Many Venezuelans said this week on social media they had not been called to re-register by the Immigration Division. Hundreds more did not even receive the 2019 registration card.
Maritza Mendoza told Newsday on Thursday she is concerned because her card has an expiration date of August 2020 and she did not receive a sticker extending it.
She said she has had problems at work as a result.
“The TT government has granted three extensions of this card, which has an expiration date in August 2020. It has been two years since then, and although the authorities have announced the extensions officially, many companies are demanding valid permits shown in some identification document.”
Mendoza works in a restaurant in San Juan and her bosses asked her to renew her work permit or said she will be fired.
“It is not something that I can do by myself, it is a solution that is in the hands of the Ministry of National Security or Immigration,” she said.
Marcel Pérez is also worried because he got a renewal sticker, but his wife Alba Solórzano did not.
“I received a sticker extending my permit for only one month, from November 22-December 25,but my wife did not even receive the call,” he said.
So the Venezuelans are awaiting word from the authorities.
“Nobody says anything. We need certainty because there are children involved who need to be legally safe,” Pérez said.
Newsday tried to contact Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds, but he did not respond to messages.
Perez said, “It is necessary for the TT government to establish better communication with the Venezuelan community. There are more than than 25,000 of us here as refugees. Immigration should give us new cards, with consistent and more comfortable dates for us as well as for the government and businessmen, so we can all work peacefully.”
Mendoza said she and many Venezuelans are willing to pay for new registration cards to be printed.
“We can help the authorities. We can cover the expenses we generate here. But the important thing is that there is effective communication, they listen to our proposals and allow us to work and live here legally,” she said.
Mendoza said in addition to a longer extension of work permits, Venezuelans need their children to be able to go to school. They also need their driver’s licences approved.
“All countries in the world allow Venezuelan children to study. In fact in Guyana there are more than 700 migrant children studying in its public education system. It’s a humane measure,” said Mendoza.
“If they approve a work permit it must also include a driver’s licence, because many jobs need drivers and Venezuelans can fill those vacancies. Some could even buy vehicles and contribute a little more to the mobility of the economy of this country and the payment of taxes and services.”
At present, there are more than 25,000 Venezuelans officially in TT, according to the latest UN High Commission for Refugees data, including the 13,800 who have registration cards that have expired.