Question: In August I am traveling to Cuba for 6 weeks to visit my long-term Cuban boyfriend and also to study Spanish at Havana University. Does our relationship qualify for an A2 family visa? Is proof of our relationship (photos, letters) required? Can we spend a few nights together at a Varadero resort using this visa? Is it recommended that I come on a tourist visa and then convert it at immigration when I arrive?
Answer: Many visitors to Cuba who have long-term Cuban partners (or friends) arrive in Cuba with a tourist visa, and then have it changed to an A2 “family stay” visa once inside the country. This requires going to the immigration office with your boyfriend PLUS the owner of the home where you wish to stay (if the owner is NOT your boyfriend). Be sure to take your passport, visa and return flight ticket. Sometimes the home owner needs to show the propiedad (ownership papers) of the home. You will also need CUC 40 in sellos de timbre (tax stamps).
Please note: one has 24 hours from the time of arrival to change a tourist visa to a “family stay” visa. If you arrive in the late afternoon or evening, when immigration offices would already have closed, you can spend the first night at your boyfriend’s home on your tourist visa, but you and your boyfriend (and home owner if this is NOT your boyfriend) are required by law to report at the immigration office first thing the next day to solicit the necessary visa change.
It is up to the discretion of immigration whether or not the “family visa” will be issued. Until you have this visa, you cannot legally stay in your boyfriend’s home but must make other accommodation arrangements at either a hotel or legally rented casa particular.
It is also up to the discretion of immigration authorities whether or not they would like to see proof of your relationship (photos, letters, emails, etc.), so you would be well advised to have this documentation on hand.
Also please note: a “family stay” visa is good for only two months FROM THE DATE OF ENTRY INTO CUBA, and then you are required to leave the country.
You mention, though, that you also plan to study Spanish at the University of Havana. For this, you will need a student visa, which can be issued by the University itself. For more information, consult the website of the Universidad de La Habana at www.uh.cu , click underFacultades and then go to Lenguas Extranjeras. You might also try the following URL www.uh.cu/infogral/estudiaruh/postgrado/english.html which provides a description of the Intensive Spanish Program, in English, as well as Immigration Requirements for overseas students wanting to study in the Foreign Language Department. Or you can contact the Postgraduate Office either by email[email protected] or by phone (537) 832-4245, which will also be able to provide information on obtaining a student visa, etc.
Be sure to carefully check out the regulations about whether or not you can change from a student visa to a “family stay” visa or vice versa, as there are limitations. In the past, those on student visas were not able to change them, within the country, to another kind of visa, and once their studies were completed, they were expected to leave the country within a certain period of time.
As for you and your boyfriend staying together for a few nights in a Varadero resort, as of March 31, 2008, the ban was lifted on Cuban citizens staying in hotels previously reserved for foreigners. At that time, the Ministry of Tourism informed hotels around the country of the change.
In response to a direct question, the Cuban immigration offices in Habana Vieja have said that a foreigner and Cuban are permitted to stay together in either a hotel or legal homestay, including in tourist areas such as Varadero, Viñales, Trinidad, etc., as long as both are officially registered in these installations. In the case of a hotel, this means that the Cuban is registered as a guest sharing the same room as the tourist. In the case of a legal homestay, this means that the Cuban will be asked by the homestay owner to show his or herCarné de Identidad (Identity Card) so that this can be noted down along with the passport of the foreigner, as is required by law.
Please note: Immigration regulations in Cuba, as in all countries, are subject to change from one day to the next. In Cuba, it is not possible to get information over the phone. When one has a Cuban partner in Cuba, it is recommended that this individual go to his or her nearest immigration office to get up-to-date information. In Havana, the main immigration office that deals with “family stay” and other visas for overseas visitors is located at:
Edificio Alameda de Paula
e/ Habana y Compostela
Telephone (537) 864-4348
Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8:30am – 5pm, Thursday and Saturday, 8am-12 noon
There is also a Spanish-only phone service available, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, where one can get recorded information relating to a range of immigration questions. The number is (537) 206-3218.