Immigration to Venezuela Double that of Emigration

Debate over migration has arisen in Venezuela as opposition forces argue that many professionals, businesses, and upper class residents are emigrating from the country, while those aligned with the government argue that Venezuela has become a “pole of attraction.”

By Tamara Pearson

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A portable SAIME help point in Caracas (archive)
A portable SAIME help point in Caracas (archive)
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Mérida, May 21st 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Debate over migration has arisen in Venezuela as opposition forces argue that many professionals, businesses, and upper class residents are emigrating from the country, while those aligned with the government argue that Venezuela has become a “pole of attraction”, as the second highest immigrant destination country in South America.

Upper class discontent

Recently, an 18-minute video called Caracas, City of Goodbyes has gone viral on Internet networks. In the video, light-skinned and upper class young Venezuelans who make up a minority of Caracas’ population, talk about how they would like to leave the country.

Venezuela’s private media has also presented reports about a layer of Venezuelans who are “fleeing” the country. Noticias24.com, an online news site, reported in November 2010, “The professionals are fleeing and the Chinese and Haitians are arriving”.

The article argued that because of expropriations and contractions in the economy that year “many rich and middle class Venezuelans” are fleeing and there is an “exodus of scientists, doctors, businessmen, and engineers”.

Conservative daily El Universal argued that for Venezuelan emigrants, “the United States is the goal”, where it says the Venezuelan population has increased by 135% over the last ten years.

El Nacional published an article in April this year with the headline, “Price and exchange controls causing business migration”, and described how toy company Mattel had announced that it would close its office and manage its Venezuelan market from Mexico.

Statistics

However, according to 2010 World Bank statistics, that year 521,500 Venezuelans were living outside the country, compared to 2,122,300 Colombians, 1,367,300 Brazilians, 1,090,800 Peruvians, and 956,800 Argentinians. On the other hand, 1,007,400 people immigrated to Venezuela, the second highest amount in South America after Argentina.

That year, also according to the World Bank, 19.9% of immigrants to Venezuela were refugees, and the main countries of origin were Colombia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, the Dominican Republic, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Cuba. Top destinations for emigrants were the United States, Spain, Colombia, Portugal, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Canada, Chile, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

Venezuelan writer Luis Britto Garica pointed out in an article yesterday that the countries where Venezuelans are emigrating to, such as the US, Spain, and Italy, all have lower economic growth rates. He said that when Venezuelans try to emigrate, they aren’t treated well and “requesting a visa for the US or Canada is to be treated as a suspect of a crime”.

According to the US Homeland Security Department, 55.26% of Venezuelan migrants there are under the age of 34.

“The majority of our emigrating youth have been educated for free by the Venezuelan state with education facilities that their children won’t find overseas. Many of the “indignant” [or occupiers] of the world are qualified people who can’t find work,” Britto Garcia said in reference to what is a global trend of professionals educated in developing countries migrating “developed” countries.

He quoted Cuban state council vice-president Carlos Lage, who said in 1999 that, “One million scientists and professionals who were educated in Latin America at a cost of some US$30 billion now live in developed countries and now we must pay to benefit from their inventions and scientific contributions”.

Attracting immigrants

Despite this, Venezuela “continues to be a pole of attraction rather one of fleeing,” Britto Garcia said.

Immigrants are attracted to Venezuela for a number of reasons including ease of migration, ease of setting up a small business, the political situation, and access to health care. Public health care in Venezuela does not discriminate according to country of origin or residency status.

Venezuela also does not deport foreigners, even if their visa has expired. It will only deport them if they are committing serious crimes in the country.

Since 2009 SAIME (Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Foreigners) has being carrying out an anti-corruption program to prevent police officers from extorting foreigners who live in Venezuela illegally. It has also been cutting down on bureaucracy, streamlining visa requirements and improving processing times. The residency waiting period was recently reduced from five years on a valid visa, to two.