Venezuelan family in Vancouver worries as expiry looms for son's study permit

A Venezuelan family living in Vancouver is concerned the growing crisis in their home country threatens their life in Canada.

Canada Border Services Agency says an administrative deferral of removals is temporarily in place

A Venezuelan family that has been in Vancouver for about five years is worried they may have to leave Canada. (CBC)

A Venezuelan family living in Vancouver is concerned the growing crisis in their home country threatens their life in Canada.

Millions of Venezuelans have had to flee from their country since 2015 in search of food, health care and other basic services. The country's civil unrest has hindered passport, permit and visa renewals indefinitely. 

Javier Tarazona, a University of British Columbia PhD candidate living in Vancouver with his wife and children, says his nine-year-old son Arturo's study permit expires on March 19 — and no one in Venezuela seems to be able to help.

"If one of my sons doesn't have the permit, then we are in trouble because we cannot allow him to go alone — we have to go all together," Tarazona said. 

People cross a street during a power cut in Caracas on March 7, 2019. The government of Nicolas Maduro denounced a "sabotage" against the main electric power dam in the country, after a massive blackout left Caracas and vast regions of Venezuela in the darkness. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

The family have been in Vancouver for about five years. Tarazona says he has fallen in love with the culture and people of Canada. Tarazona's wife, Carmen Chavarri, says the children feel more like they're Canadians than Venezuelans. 

"Being honest, I had never thought to come back again to my country," Chavarri said. "I really want to make all my effort, our effort, to continue to be here. It's the land of freedom."

On its website, the Canada Border Service Agency says it has issued an administrative deferral of removals for Venezuelans — it's a temporary measure that prevents deportation for people from countries experiencing a humanitarian crisis. 

But the Tarazona Chavarri family say the deferral is only temporary, so they're still worried about their long-term future. They say they don't want to leave Canada behind just because of a glitch in paperwork while their home country is falling apart.

"If we can stay here in Canada, perfect," Tarazona said. "If not we will have to go somewhere else. Going back to Venezuela is not an option for us now."

The Venezuelan ambassador to Canada is set to hold a round table discussion with Vancouver's Venezuelan community at the end of the week.

With files from Zahra Premji