Venezuela continues to be plagued by a number of issues caused largely due to the unpopular socialist president Nicolá Maduro who entered office in 2013. Previous months have seen large anti-government protests, calls for a presidential election, dwindling supplies of food and basic medical supplies as well as the mass exodus of Venezuelan nationals from the State. The issues currently faced by the people of Venezuela are considered a “humanitarian crisis”, and for many Venezuelans leaving the State is considered their best option.
For those Venezuelan nationals who have already left the State one significant issue has arisen that potentially threatens their status in Ireland- the issue of expiring Venezuelan passports. Since March 2017 it has been reported that the authorities in Venezuela allegedly lack the basis materials necessary to print new passports, such as paper and ink. This has meant that the issuing of new passports in Venezuela has essentially come to a halt. Some estimates suggest that approximately 300,000 passports were issued last year, while applications had been made by between 1.8 million and 3 million people.
As a result of the shortage in materials President Maduro signed an emergency decree in October 2017 allowing the extension passports that have expired for two more years. However, this emergency decree is of little comfort to many Venezuelans in Ireland whose passports have already expired and cannot get the extension. To gain the extension Venezuelans living in Europe must travel to one of three embassies located in Belgium, France or Germany. However, this is not possible for those Venezuelans who already have expired passports and are therefore unable to travel. This leaves Venezuelans living in Ireland with expired passports essentially stranded.
To be able to travel to one of the embassies in Europe to obtain the two-year extension, Venezuelans in Ireland have to do this before their passports expire. This is a problem for Venezuelans whose passports expired before the passing of the emergency decree. Another challenge posed is that for Venezuelans who choose to get extension this ends their application for a new passport, leaving them with no refund for their application and still having to pay for an extension.
Many Venezuelans are unable to obtain the extension because the decree requires that there must be space in the expired passport for the new stamp by the embassy. For those Venezuelans whose passports are full of visas and stamps after years of travel this leaves little room for the two year extension stamp.
The expiry of Venezuelan passports also gives rise to issues relating to employment and residency, with employers and landlords considering a valid passport a essential necessity when hiring someone or renting accommodation. reports that for the most part INIS has approached issues relating to Venezuelan passports on a case by case basis, with the Department offering GNIB card extensions of up to 6 months. However, this is a short-term solution to a major crisis, and as of yet it appears the Irish State does not have a long-term strategy for Venezuelans without valid passports.
Berkeley Solicitors