Bloomberg Línea — The United States and Guatemala have jointly launched a webpage on which would-be migrants and refugees can apply for an appointment for a US visa, in a bid to staunch the flow of illegal immigrants into the US.
The pilot program dubbed “Safe Mobility” was launched June 12, and which will last six months, to “promote safe, orderly and regular immigration and access to protection mechanisms,” said the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.
The initiative, which is supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency UNHCR, also seeks to protect “people from exposure to scams and dangers” such as human traffickers.
With this program, Guatemalans and citizens of of the other countries that make up the Central American Free Mobility Agreement, known as CA4 - El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua - will be able to fill out an application from their countries, through the digital platform https://movilidadsegura.org/, free of charge, to learn about the different opportunities to migrate legally to the US and other countries.
If an applicant qualifies for any of the legal channels, he/she will be notified to continue with the process.
“It is important to note that making an application on the website does not guarantee approval for a regular migration pathway,” said the US Department of State.
In late April, when Title 42, related to the Covid-era emergency health protocols that had fortified the US-Mexico border for more than three years, expired, Washington announced that it would open centers in Guatemala and Colombia to screen potential migrants and refugees.
The centers are part of an approach by President Joe Biden’s administration to expand access to legal routes into the United States, while making it more difficult to apply for asylum at ports of entry.
Safe Mobility for Nicaraguans and Venezuelans
The State Department also announced that the Secure Mobility offices in Costa Rica will begin contacting Nicaraguan and Venezuelan nationals, who registered with UNHCR offices before June 12, to determine whether they are eligible for protection or other legal avenues.
The UNHCR will contact eligible individuals directly to schedule an appointment. In future phases, the program will also be open to Nicaraguan and Venezuelan nationals present in Costa Rica before June 12, 2023 who have not registered with UNHCR.
Brian A. Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, tweeted in Spanish that he is “delighted that Costa Rica is allying with us in the Safe Mobility initiative, widening the legal avenues for Nicaraguans and Venezuelans in Costa Rica that are registered as asylum seekers”.
The Safe Mobility offices will review each application to determine eligibility and will contact applicants to provide information on a possible legal pathway, or to schedule an appointment.
Access to the Safe Mobility offices is free and by appointment only. “No one may solicit payments or any favors in exchange for access to services related to the Safe Mobility offices. Secure Mobility offices will not be accessible for appointments,” the US government said.
A similar process to that of Costa Rica and Guatemala will open in Colombia on June 19.