US offers temporary residence, work permits to nearly 500,000 Venezuelans

The program was established by Congress for foreign nationals who cannot safely return to their country.

The US government announced Wednesday that it will allow 472,000 Venezuelans to remain in the United States and work legally for 18 months due to growing instability and unsafe conditions in the South American nation.

President Joe Biden's administration extended and redesignated the "Temporary Protected Status (TPS)" for Venezuelans who were in the United States before July 31, 2023, granting them temporary protection from deportation as well as access to work permits, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made the decision "based on Venezuela's increased instability and lack of safety," it said.

There are about 242,700 Venezuelan TPS beneficiaries under the existing designation, and due to the redesignation, around 472,000 additional Venezuelans living in the United States could apply for protection from removal, the statement added.

The program was established by Congress for foreign nationals who cannot safely return to their country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts or other extraordinary conditions.

The United Nations says more than seven million people have left Venezuela as the oil giant's economy has collapsed under President Nicolas Maduro, who has been in power since 2013.

The United States was among dozens of countries that rejected Maduro's reelection in 2018 as fraudulent. It first designated Venezuela for TPS in 2021.

President Biden has been under pressure for weeks from fellow Democrats over immigration, first from several cities such as New York that have been overwhelmed by the number of migrants arriving, many of them Venezuelans.

In addition, about 20 senators, all but one of them Democrats, asked Biden in July to redesignate TPS for Venezuelans and Nicaraguans.

The senators accused Maduro's government of human rights abuses, including jailing more than 200 political prisoners and disqualifying opponents from running in elections.