WASHINGTON—The Biden administration said it would grant temporary legal authorization to Venezuelans in the U.S. without permission, allowing potentially hundreds of thousands of people to remain in the country.
The Temporary Protected Status designation, which lasts for 18 months and can be renewed, offers Venezuelans in the U.S. work permits and temporary protection against deportation. Venezuelans who enter the U.S. after March 8 can’t qualify for the program, a senior administration official said. As many as 320,000 people could be eligible for the program, the person said.
The decision, which follows a nearly identical move by former President Donald Trump in his final hours in office, is the first major policy move in the Biden administration’s pressure campaign against the Venezuelan regime of President Nicolás Maduro.
The Trump administration targeted the Maduro regime with sanctions, a limited travel ban on government officials and other measures. In Jan. 2019, the U.S. officially recognized the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s interim president.
Mr. Trump granted Venezuelans in the U.S. without legal permission a status called Deferred Enforced Departure, which is nearly identical to TPS but is issued directly by the president rather than the secretary of Homeland Security.