What’s Happening with the TPS for Venezuelans in the U.S.

An outlook of the reach of the measure so far, and of the options for those who are not applying to this immigration benefit

Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto

Social media and opinion leaders give us mixed messages. “Venezuelans who are eligible for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the U.S. are not using the benefit”; “Venezuelans will use it if they need it; most don’t need it”; “Venezuelans are not adhering to the TPS; they should.” I decided to review what’s out there, and to try to understand whether it is true that Venezuelans weren’t sending their applications to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (UCIS) to receive the benefit of the TPS, and if they were not, then why.

And Here’s the Picture 

After reviewing the information available at USCIS and consulting with Venezuelan diaspora leaders in the U.S.,I found that an important number of eligible Venezuelans have actually applied for the benefit, although many complained that they haven’t received any response.

When it was approved in March 2021, it was estimated that around 323,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. were eligible to apply.

Data by USCIS, the immigration authority in charge of implementing the process, confirmed that around 220,673 applications were received by November. So approximately 68.3% of the potential beneficiaries have already applied.

Of those, also by November, they had approved around 15,788, and only ten had been denied. What can we say about this? So far, the acceptance rate isn’t bad at all: 99%. We should wait for a new wave of responses to see if that rate is maintained, which should probably be closer to the summer and before the deadline to apply in September 2022.

The fact is that not many Venezuelans had applied earlier in the process. Why? Mainly because of lack of information, sometimes disinformation, and a combination of fear of the process and being identified as an irregular migrant. This changed as many organizations started to dissipate some of the doubts, and there were commendable efforts, such as the one by the Venezuelan consulate in Washington, D.C. and the team led by Brian Fincheltub with Miami-Dade county to offer free legal clinics to Venezuelans all over the U.S. to get support with the application process (potential beneficiaries can meet with a lawyer in person as well as virtually).

Now, how about the remaining 31% or 102,300 Venezuelans who haven’t applied yet, even though they are eligible for the benefit? The consensus seems to be that most of them have already started another regularization process in the U.S. that would allow them to adjust their status without the TPS.

What do we know about the other processes? Data from the R4V Platform confirms that by mid-2021, around 230,300 Venezuelans had initiated an asylum process in the U.S. There were also 18,100 Venezuelans already formally recognized as refugees in the country. So that continues to be an option for many Venezuelans.

Venezuelans who aren’t in the U.S. but see the possibility of settling in the U.S. have also started irregular migration journeys. Some cross the Darien Gap, which we covered here, and then cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.-Mexico border, which we also covered here. The number of irregular migrants from Venezuela and detentions in the U.S.-Mexico border has increased exponentially in the last year. We know that official figures for 2021 put the number of Venezuelans crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at 108,510 Venezuelans, many of them risking their lives and that of their children. And once they arrive in the U.S., their cases will be added to the thousands of asylum applications already being considered. There are many who also chose (maybe they feel like they have no choice?) but to stay as irregular migrants, in the shadows.

In all, the migratory history of Venezuelans keeps evolving. And we’ll keep monitoring.

* Opinions are personal. They do not represent those of the Organization of American States (OAS).