Question: I would like to stay with friends in Santa Lucia, Camaguey. I am from Canada. Can I arrange the required visas in Canada before travel?
Do I have to get a tourist visa also?
Where is the nearest immigration office in Playa Santa Lucia, Camaguey?
Answer: Although one can apply for a “family stay” visa – which is what you will need to stay with your friends in Cuba – from outside the country, it is a long and time-consuming process. What is best is to arrive in Cuba with a tourist visa and then have this visa changed once there.
Officials at the Cuban Consulate in Toronto, Canada inform that one has 24 hours from the time of arrival to change a tourist visa to a “family stay” visa. What this means is that if you arrive in the later afternoon or evening, when immigration offices would already have closed, you can spend the first night at your friend’s home on your tourist visa, but you and your friend are required by law to report at the immigration office the next day to solicit the necessary visa change.
More precisely, you will need to go to immigration with the owner of the home where you wish to stay. Be sure to take your passport, tourist visa and return flight ticket. Sometimes the owner needs to show the propriedad (ownership papers) of the home. You will also need CUC 40 in sellos de timbre (tax stamps). It is up to the discretion of immigration whether or not the “family visa” will be issued.
As for locating the nearest immigration office to Playa Santa Lucia, your friends would be the best placed to find the one nearest their home, or you could ask for this information from immigration upon arrival. Please note: you will not be able to change your tourist visa to a “family stay” visa without the presence of the home owner.