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Cubans a little bit more free: restrictions on overseas travel relaxed after 50 years

Monday, January 14th 2013 - 03:28 UTC
Full article 5 comments
Access to passport with no White Card or an invitation letter from abroad Access to passport with no White Card or an invitation letter from abroad
Havana airport on busy bustling day Havana airport on busy bustling day

After over half a century, Cuba's new immigration rules that will take effect on January 14 will relax overseas travel restrictions, Havana authorities said. From Tuesday Cubans intending to travel can apply for a passport without the need to present a government permit, known as the White Card, or an invitation letter from abroad, two prior requisites that made travel planning more onerous, according to Cuba's immigration bureau (IND).

Instead, Cubans will only require a passport, a visa from the destination country and travel tickets. As many as 195 passport offices will be operating nationwide, the bureau said. The new law will also extend the period Cubans can stay abroad and allow children under 18 to travel overseas with the permission of their parents or legal guardians.

However, Cuban authorities will retain the right to refuse passports to those deemed risky to public security, national defence or for other reasons, and limit travel by professionals considered “vital” to Cuba, IND said.

The new rules were broadly welcomed by Cubans and their relatives living abroad when they were originally announced on October 16 last year.

The new rules will also eliminate longstanding restrictions on health care professionals' overseas travel.

For many years Cuban doctors have been limited in their ability to travel or had to undergo cumbersome bureaucratic procedures. They are routinely denied permission to travel or receive it only if they plan to leave for good and after a five-year process of being released from their duties.

The restrictions were justified as necessary to prevent brain drain from a sector that is the pride of Cuba's Castro brothers’ regime, and which lost thousands of skilled professionals in the 1960s as the country increasingly became a Soviet satellite following he Cuban Revolution.

Other individuals in strategic occupations such as scientists, military officers and athletes have also had a hard time getting permission to travel.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

Top Comments

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  • Anglotino

    A country with travel restrictions..... what a weird place to live!

    Jan 14th, 2013 - 05:16 am 0
  • walterlx

    For years we've been told that the restrictions on Cubans' ability to travel abroad demonstrated that the island is nothing but a tropical gulag. These new Cuban rules, which are now in effect, make that kind of argument unsustainable if actual facts have anything to do with it.

    Despite the NYT's long-time hostility toward Cuba and its revolutionary government, this is an informative article. Besides, it's published in the NYT, so that makes it important by itself.

    Washington's hostility toward the Cuban revolution is and will remain unchanged. Helms-Burton, Torricelli and the Cuban Adjustment Act remain in full force and effect, for now. But Cuba has taken a giant step in the direction of friendlier and more open ties with most of those who've left the country. Today's big question is, how will Washington respond to this?

    Walter Lippmann
    Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
    January 13, 2013
    After Decades, Cuba Eases Travel Rules to Maintain Ties

    Jan 14th, 2013 - 12:33 pm 0
  • ajoknoblauch

    Ironically, as Cuba loosens restrictions on travel abroad, Argentina continues to tighten them.

    Jan 14th, 2013 - 07:08 pm 0
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