Venezuelans find opportunities and security in the DR

A large number of migrants from Venezuela have settled in the Dominican Republic since 2016, working in stores, gyms, restaurants and other businesses or even performing circus acts at city street intersections.

El Caribe newspaper looks into Venezuelan migration in an attempt to explain the recent phenomenon. The newspaper points out that no clear statistics are available on the number of Venezuelans who have moved here. Officially, there is a statement made by Migration director Rubén Darío Paulino Sem in mid-2016 that their numbers in the country had increased by 40%. According to their data, 16,000 Venezuelans were living in the country.

In the past three years, the Ministry of Foreign Relations has authorized 2,556 visas granting working status, including 567 in 2014, 1,207 in 2015 and 782 in 2016. In 2016, the Migration Agency said that it issued 626 temporary residences for Venezuelans. This confirms a significant increase in Venezuelans beyond the 3,434 estimate made by the First National Survey on Immigrants (ENI-2012).

Venezuelans can enter the Dominican Republic with a tourist card and their passport, but to legally have earnings, they need to apply for the work visa and the process needs to be started by making an application at the Dominican consulate in Caracas.

Román Briceño, a Venezuelan who immigrated here 18 years ago, recently created the Association of Venezuelans in the Dominican Republic to support and keep track of Venezuelan immigration here. He comments that in the past a good share of the arrivals was made up of large Venezuelan investors. The difference in the recent wave of immigration, however is that the new arrivals need to find work here.

Briceño says most of the newcomers now are middle class professionals who are migrating due to the difficult economic situation and high crime rate in Venezuela. Briceño says that while in the DR the homicide rate is 17 per 100,000 inhabitants, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV) reports the same figure for Venezuela as 91.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

He said that Venezuelans were taking jobs as taxi drivers, night watchmen and building concierges. “Venezuelans put their pride aside… You will find lawyers and engineers working as taxi drivers,” one interviewee told El Caribe.

Airport statistics show that the big wave of Venezuelan immigration started in 2014. In 2014, a total of 108,376 Venezuelans arrived in the Dominican Republic, up from a previous peak of 75,000. Central Bank 2016 statistics show that as of November 2016, 155,674 Venezuelans had visited, and 146,870 left. In 2015, a total of 163,870 Venezuelans arrived and 166,903 left.

The newspaper reporter spoke to several Venezuelans who said that they had chosen the Dominican Republic because of the ease of entry, job and entrepreneurship opportunities and following in the footsteps of a compatriot who had already immigrated.

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El Caribe

12 January 2017