Havana.- The Cuban government announced that will lift from next January restrictions on its citizens foreign travels in force for half a century.
The Cuba state is giving its people the freedom to leave the country without government permission, a national exit Visa. According to the announcement citizens will be able to leave for a vacation – or even forever – with only a passport and a visa from the country of their destination.
The decree still allows Cuban authorities the ability to deny travel by many Cubans for reasons of defense and “national security.” So will doctors, scientists, athletes, members of the military and others considered key contributors, as well as those who face criminal charges. The new law is the latest and biggest step in a gradual relaxation of restrictions on things like opening private small businesses, owning cell phones, staying in tourist hotels, and buying and selling homes and cars.
Starting Jan. 14, Cubans will no longer have to apply for the costly “tarjeta blanca,” or “white card,” ending a restriction in place since 1961. The measure also extends to 24 months the amount of time Cubans can remain abroad, and they can request an extension when that runs out. Currently, Cubans lose residency and their rights to property, social security, free health care and free education after 11 months overseas.
Cubans still need to acquire entry visas for most countries, including the United States, which closely screens applicants and rejects potential over stayers. According to U.S. government statistics, about 43,000 visas were issued to Cubans in the most recent fiscal year, including both tourist and immigrant visas, and a huge backlog means the wait for a new visa application can be lengthy.