People wishing to move to Venezuela, either for an extended but temporary stay or permanently, must comply with certain immigration requirements. According to the Venezuelan Embassy, the country does not offer open-ended "permanent resident" status like the United States does (the so-called green cards). In Venezuela, you are either a citizen or you are not. Foreigners instead can hold the status of "resident" or residencia.
Business Visa for Temporary Residence
Business people wishing to stay in Venezuela for an extended period must have a passport with at least six months remaining before expiration, a completed application for a business visa, and a letter proving that they will be able to support themselves financially while in the country. They will also need a reference from their employer stating the purpose of their visit. These visas are valid for a maximum of one year. If you want to remain longer, you’ll need to reapply for a visa annually.
Gaining Resident Status
To apply for resident status, a foreigner must already be living in Venezuela under a temporary visa such as for students (see below) or business people. You must apply for a national identity card, called a cédula. This card identifies you as a resident and gives you an ID number starting with the letter E followed by a string of numbers.
The cédula can only be issued in Venezuela by the Dirección de Extranjería, or DiEx, a branch of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice. (In English, this is called the Foreigner Status Directorate.)
Residence status needs to be renewed every five years and will be lost if you leave Venezuela for a continuous period of two years.
There have been cases of U.S. citizens being arrested and charged with possessing false resident documents even though they were under the impression they were valid. The Venezuelan government advises that only legitimate documents, appropriate to status, will be acceptable, and then only when obtained and personally signed by a representative of ONIDEX (the Office of Identification and Alien Affairs) at the agency’s Caracas headquarters.
A foreigner holding resident status is entitled to apply for citizenship after 10 years. However, the spouse of a Venezuelan citizen is exempt from this requirement. The only requirement for spouses to gain citizenship is to have lived as a spouse in the country for five years.
Foreign Residents' Rights
Foreign legal residents of Venezuela are entitled to the same anti-poverty and social welfare programs as citizens. For these, they must obtain a Mission Identidad card. Someone may offer to sell you the Mission Identidad, often for a large sum, but the law forbids asking for money for this document.
Foreign residents have essentially the same rights as citizens, but their political rights are limited. For example, although foreign residents are able to vote in municipal and parish elections, they cannot vote in state or national elections.
Tourists and Students
People wishing to visit Venezuela for vacation can obtain a tourist card quite easily. Students intending to remain in Venezuela for education need a student visa that is valid for up to 90 days. Students must have a passport that is valid for at least six more months, a recent color photograph, a completed application form and a letter proving financial support for the duration of their stay.
- BRPH/iStock/Getty Images