Venzuelans claim visas, work permits being refused

Venezuelans wait near the Immigration Division office, Henry Street, Port of Spain for information on registration cards on December 16, 2022. - AYANNA KINSALE
Venezuelans wait near the Immigration Division office, Henry Street, Port of Spain for information on registration cards on December 16, 2022. - AYANNA KINSALE

While the authorities have not yet ruled on the extension of work permits for Venezuelans, migrants are now saying they are being denied visas to enter TT.

Registration cards, the equivalent of a work permit, issued to 13,000 Venezuelans expired on January 1.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds announced in mid-January on a radio talk show that the permits would be extended again, but to date this has not been done.

Hundreds of Venezuelans have said on social media they have been fired from their jobs because their registration cards have expired.

This week there have been complaints about problems in obtaining visas.

Marlene Sosa told Newsday on Monday she had applied for visas for four family members in Venezuela. She wants her mother, her father and her two nephews to visit her.

“I received an e-mail from the Immigration Division informing me the visas were denied. They didn't give me any reason,” she said.

Sosa came to TT five years ago and has a work permit issued by the government in 2019.

“I haven't seen my parents for five years. I haven't been able to leave TT, and they don't allow me to bring my family on vacation either,” she said.

Sosa said she spent $5,000 on payment to immigration ($200 for each person), translations of documents ($150 per person), downpayments of 20 per cent on the tickets ($2,740 for the four) and other expenses such as copies, printing and taxis.

“They denied me the visas, they didn't tell me the reasons and they didn't refund the money I spent on the paperwork, either,” she said.

Newsday contacted other Venezuelans who had tried to apply for visas but were unable to.

“I went to immigration on Richmond Street, Port of Spain, but the officers at the entrance did not let me in. They told me there are no visas for Venezuelans for now,” said Carlos Perdomo.

He had planned to go to Venezuela to see his son, who was born three years ago and whom he has not seen.

“It's hard not being able to leave TT, but also not being able to bring our families,” he said.

Manuel Martínez also went to the Immigration Division recently. He said the officers' response was the same: “There are no visas for now.”

Martínez said he also sent a relative to the TT embassy in Caracas and he was told the same thing.

“The TT embassy in Venezuela is not issuing visas. The officials only say the procedures are done through Port of Spain only.

"I don't know what to do or who to turn to,” Martinez said. “We Venezuelans in TT continue with our hands tied: no work permits, no education for our children, health services only in emergencies, no driving licences, and without visas to see our relatives while we wait for the...extension of the registration cards." Meanwhile, he pointed out, "TT received a licence from the US to exploit Venezuelan gas in the Dragon field.”

Foreign Minister Amery Browne told Newsday the Immigration Division's line ministry is the ministry of National Security, from where there should be answers. However, several messages were sent to Hinds and Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews, but messages sent via WhatsApp went unanswered.


"Venzuelans claim visas, work permits being refused"

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