Biden Administration Grants Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan Nationals

On March 8, 2021, the Biden Administration announced that it will grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to some 323,000 Venezuelan nationals in the United States.

The initial period of TPS is 18 months and may be extended if conditions in Venezuela do not improve. TPS provides recipients with the legal right to remain in the United States, avoid deportation, and allows them to apply for a work permit and travel document, as long as they continue to maintain eligibility for TPS during the eligibility period.

The administration announced TPS protection for nationals of Venezuela because of the country’s ongoing severe economic crisis, severe political crisis including allegations that the 2018 elections were illegitimate, deterioration of human rights and public health protections, food insecurity, lack of basic services, and high crime.

The grant of TPS and the many benefits that go along with it is not automatic, however.

Venezuelan nationals must register for TPS benefits during the 180-day initial registration period, which will run from March 9, 2021, until September 5, 2021. If a person does not apply during the initial registration period, he or she will have to demonstrate good cause why he or she did not timely apply.

If approved, the protections will last until September 9, 2022, unless renewed based on the situation in Venezuela. By rule, the administration must make the decision whether to extend or terminate TPS for Venezuela no later than 60 days before the end of the benefit period.

Before former President Trump departed office, he instituted a Deferred Enforced Departure program for Venezuelans. However, many believe that TPS provides greater benefits than the Trump program, and most Venezuelans granted Deferred Enforced Departure should also apply for TPS, if otherwise eligible.

Applicants for TPS from Venezuela must prove that they are nationals of Venezuela (or, in the case of stateless persons, had their last habitual residence in Venezuela). That means that even people who are not citizens of Venezuela or people who were not born in Venezuela — but are nonetheless considered nationals of Venezuela — will still qualify for TPS. Additionally, TPS applicants from Venezuela must prove that they have continuously resided in the United States from March 8, 2021, until their application.

It is NOT required that an applicant be in valid immigration status. Instead, TPS protects all eligible Venezuelans, regardless of their current immigration status or how they entered the country.

In addition to protection from deportation, a person with TPS may apply for a special document called advance parole, which allows international travel. It is important that any person granted TPS consult with a qualified immigration attorney before departing the United States, even if granted “advance parole” as a benefit of TPS (which authorizes limited international travel in some circumstances). A person who returns from a trip abroad with advance parole might, in some situations, qualify for adjustment of status — that is, obtaining their permanent residency inside the United States instead of traveling to a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

For people with any criminal history (including minor traffic or driving offenses), it is especially important to consult with a qualified immigration attorney before applying for TPS benefits. Certain criminal convictions make a person ineligible for TPS. However, a qualified immigration attorney can consult with criminal attorneys to determine if anything can be done to restore eligibility for TPS.

The government filing fees for applying for TPS are relatively modest compared with other forms of relief. At this time, the initial registration fee is $50 and may be waived upon a showing of financial hardship. The filing fee for a work permit (Employment Authorization Document), which allows for lawful employment, a driver’s license in Tennessee, and a Social Security number, varies between $410 and $495 and can also be waived for cause.

If you would like to consider applying for TPS from Venezuela, our attorneys at Ozment Law, PLC, can help. Our Nashville attorneys are already applying for TPS benefits for Venezuelans. Remember, time to apply is limited, and applications received after September 5, 2021, will fall under extra scrutiny, and the USCIS will want to know why the applicant did not apply on time.

Call us at (615) 321-8888 to schedule an initial consultation, so one of our attorneys can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your potential TPS case.