Carlos Martinez shows he and his wife’s registration cards.
– Grevic Alvarado
With just over a month to go before the extension of work permits for Venezuelans expires, hundreds of them have still not received the official sticker on their registration cards.
In Legal Notice 53, published in the Gazette on March 1, the Ministry of National Security extended the validity of the registration cards until December 31.
The notice was signed by National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds on February 9. It applied to the 13,500 Venezuelans who re-registered in March 2021.
In June, 2109, initially 15,523 Venezuelans registered, but some have left TT or did not re-register.
This is the fourth extension of work permits for registered Venezuelans.
The first extension was approved in August 2020 until the end of that year, owing to the covid19 pandemic. The cabinet then approved a second six-month extension and a new registration. In September 2021, the Venezuelans were granted a third extension, validated with a sticker on their cards, which expired on December 31.
Venezuelans were told to wait for a call from Immigration Division officers to go to the Immigration office on Henry Street, Port of Spain.
However, hundreds are concerned because they still have not been called. But there are some who were called but were told, when they arrived, that their stickers are not yet ready.
Andreina Briceño Brown, director of the NGO La Casita, said in the last month she has received more than 100 calls from Venezuelans requesting information about the stickers.
She said most of them are worried because they are being pressured by their employers to establish they are legally allowed to work in TT, at least until December 31, although the extension was announced by the government.
“People want to know what will happen to these stickers. We are opting to give them a copy of the decree (order) so they can show it to their bosses or to the police,” she said.
Brown said she was even told of instances where police officers were unaware of the extension and are only guided by the expiration date of the card, which is 2020.
So far the number of stickers issued by the Immigration Division is unknown.
Carlos Martínez told Newsday he and his wife María Delgado have complied with all the procedures from the first day of registration in June 2019. They received their previous extensions, but have had problems with the latter.
“I received my new sticker in May, but my wife did not. They called her three days after me and the Immigration officials only said her sticker was not ready yet and they would call her again. Six months have passed and we are still waiting for the call. I don’t understand why her sticker isn’t ready if it only has a general date, it’s not personalised,” said Martínez.
The Immigration officers tell other people if they were not called they cannot go to the office to request their stickers.
Brown called on the authorities to expedite the delivery of the updated stickers.
“They can make a special-delivery day or even request help from community organisations to expedite this process. It is so important for the legality of Venezuelans here,” she said.
Newsday tried to get responses from Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne, but messages went unanswered.