Immigration Policy Changes

Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — Cubans woke up yesterday morning with news that had been anxiously awaited by many people for quite some time. Promised changes in immigration policy will finally be put into effect starting January 14 of next year.

Yesterday — Tuesday, October 16, 2012 — this appeared as the headline in the Granma newspaper and in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba.” Immediately after the lead was a paragraph that read as follows: “…the genocidal and illegal economic, commercial and financial blockade by the government of the United States against our country.”

Such a warning awakens suspicions, but overtaken by the excitement of seeing a right come true that had been denied us for so many years, I am eager to read the rest of the document. I particularly noted Article 23, which specifies the reasons why Cuban citizens living in the country will not be able to get passports.

Here we find logical cases, such as someone facing criminal proceedings, or someone having outstanding sanctions yet to be served or their being subject to the fulfillment of military service, among others. But there is one questionable point:

“Sub-paragraph f): The lack of authorization established by virtue of norms aimed at preserving a skilled workforce for the economic, social, scientific and technical development of the country and for the safety and protection of official information.”

What this means is that remaining in force will be the famous “letters of freedom” for doctors, scientists and other professionals. Even when they are married or requested by relatives abroad, they’ll have to wait for periods of five years or more to be authorized to leave.

This is justified in the text by the old “brain drain” theory. But it seems to be trying to deny the fact that most professionals who migrate do so basically for better pay and to have the necessary resources to carry out their work with optimum quality, which is the dream of every great professional.

Maybe from now on, with the absence of so many restrictions, it won’t be a surprise to see professionals establishing themselves for a certain amount of time in other countries and then returning to practice here. This is something that can’t be ruled out.

Other issues of fairness would be ones such as the repeal of Act No. 989 dated December 5, 1961, providing for nationalization through confiscation by the Cuban state of property, rights and shares of those who are permanently absent from the country. These are well received.

The fact is that we won’t need letters of invitation or exit permits to leave our country. All we’ll need is a passport and a visa from the place we plan to go (if that is required). Cubans with the financial wherewithal will be able to travel to other places in the world.

They can establish themselves in those places for a period of 24 months to try their luck and then decide whether to stay or remain. In any case, Cubans are hardworking and dedicated. Once installed anywhere in the world, they will always contribute to the Cuban economy, sending money to family and friends.

I think these new law is a positive step in the economic and social policy of Cuba. The government is fulfilling another promise, even though much more needs to be done. This is one step forward with a long road ahead.


6 thoughts on “Immigration Policy Changes

  • Addressing point by point:

    “This policy change simply allows…” Why “simply”? It’s a welcome reform by the Cuban government. Why attempt to trivialize it?

    “Any exodus of Cubans to any country will likely be met by fewer visas”. In other words, the Cuban government intelligently assessed the risk that the policy change would not subject Cubans to a repeat of what happened in the 60’s when half of Cuba’s doctors fled the country.

    “Permanent residence status is typically a function of the economy and available jobs.” True, except for Cubans travelling to the US. By current US law, the minute they indicate they are no longer tourists but want to stay as permanent residents, they’ve got it. You are quite deceitful on this point.

    “In addition, this change will encourage Cuban émigrés to return to Cuba to visit sooner and more often” due to not having to pay consular fees each time. Score another point for the intelligence of the Cuban government for offering an incentive to its citizens for returning to Cuba.

    As for how to deal with Ms. Yoani Sanchez, it will be interesting to see what the Cuban government decides about her. If allowed out, her only friendly venue is the US. The rest of the world has condemned the 50 plus year blockade as being a major cause of Cuba’s economic problems.

    US media will try to make her an instant celebrity. She writes what elites there- corporate media and government – want to hear. But unless she is ‘media-friendly’ – looks good, talks good – she won’t be around for long. American media LOVES media-friendly people, in case you hadn’t noticed.

    Based on the intelligence the Cuban government is showing to date about travel policies, I have every confidence it will make a wise decision about Yoani.

    I doubt if this is good news for you, however.

    You never respond to my comments, only moving on to incessantly submitting comments to other articles. Why? As if I didn’t know the answer already. Just asking.

  • This is great news. The average age of the 1 million Canadian tourist that visit Cuba is 10 years greater than other tourists and many are retired. Many are repeaters and have many friends in Cuba. I’m sure many will treat their Cuban friends to vacations in Canada. Canada is short many workers so this will make it easier Cubans to come to Canada as documented workers.
    My two Cuban / Canadian children may visit Canada this summer.
    Gordon ” CubaKing ” Robinson Port Alberni B.C.
    [email protected]

  • This policy change simply allows Cubans to travel as unsponsored tourists, heretofore not possible. Any exodus of Cubans to any country will likely be met by fewer visas extended to Cubans from that country. Permanent residence status is typically a function of the economy and available jobs and more Cubans would only exacerbate already difficult times. In addition, this change will encourage Cuban emigres to return to Cuba to visit sooner and more often as the consular fees Cuba has extracted in the past from visiting Cubans who live abroad have been eliminated. As far as the increase or decrease in controlling who will actually be allowed to travel, only time will tell. Ms. Yoani Sanchez will have her bags packed on January 14, 2013 I am sure. Will the Castros let her leave is the question?

  • Hello Dariela,

    Just a few comments and perspectives from Canada. We have a large immigrant population, with a big concentration in the city I live in, Toronto. To me, it looks like the Cuban government wanted an ‘escape clause’ in case there proved to be a mass exodus of skilled personnel that created serious problems for Cubans like the flight of doctors after the Revolution.

    Post-Revolutionary Cuba experienced a worsening of disease and infant mortality rates in the 1960s when half its 6,000 doctors left the country. A repeat of that experience is obviously unwelcome.

    I suspect the government is fairly confident that won’t happen again but the US is always a wild card factor that requires caution. The doctors in the 60’s were well off and didn’t want to give up their privileged position. That’s hardly the case now plus, having to quickly educate new doctors then, Cuba has better facilities for training doctors.

    There are other factors, I think, that will deter a mass exodus. I regularly encounter trained medical people from overseas driving taxi cabs or doing other menial jobs in Toronto. Credentials are required to practice here and in the US. The US government has waived immigration regulations but medical regulations are not under its control.

    You may make more money driving a taxi in Miami than driving one in Havana but driving a taxi is still driving a taxi, not practicing medicine. So seeing “professionals establishing themselves for a certain amount of time in other countries and then returning to practice here” involve practicalities that need to be dealt with.

    There are also difficulties in expecting professionals to “establish themselves in those places for a period of 24 months”. Most countries issue visas for six months only with renewals not being automatic. So they will mostly be limited to living in the only country that has granted them special status, the US.

    The US government could offer a subsidy to acquire accreditation but it will have to deal with medical associations who protect the high incomes of doctors by limiting their number. Also, if there was a mass exodus, the US would also have to deal with the strong anti-immigration feelings held by many Americans.

    So I think the Cuban government will likely find there is nothing to worry about and not enforce emigration restrictions but time will tell. It may be best to view the new regulations the way you characterise them in your last sentence: “one step forward with a long road ahead.”

  • What about a docter who just wants to leave for a holiday of a few weeks to Europe? Would that be possible with the new law? Even with some required guarantees will make live and dreams of many more bearable and enjoying. Does anybody of this forum knows this would be possible now?

  • I believe this article is talking about EMIGRATION (people leaving the country) not IMMIGRATION (people moving to Cuba). La emigración ni la inmigración.

Comments are closed.