Permission to Leave Cuba (III): The Interview

Irina Echarry

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 5 — Nena didn’t want to think negatively, but nor could she stop thinking they might not give her the visa. She went to the interview at the Venezuelan consulate prepared for either of the two alternatives.

After a few minutes in the waiting room, a voice called her name. She went up the stairs, where a door opened and a man wearing glasses extended her his large strong hand. On his face was a smile as he welcomed her to the office.

She had expected a more serious face, an even hostile one.

It was nice that the Venezuelan government employee didn’t sit behind a desk; with a half meter of “official” papers between them. Instead, he pulled up a chair and placed it next to her. He then casually began thumbing through the folder of documents that Nena had turned in two weeks earlier.

That was her first surprise. In less than a month she had been given an appointment, though several people had predicted that she would have to wait at least two months after submitting her documents to the consulate.

The consulate employee’s wife had the same name, Nena, an amusing coincidence – and also a relief. It was as if the conversation were between two friends, making her almost forget that the interview would mean whether or not she would be granted the ability to travel to the country where she was awaited.

He proceeded to ask her a few brief questions — still casually — about what she was thinking about doing there, how long she was planning to stay, what she did for a living… But the man asked as if he were just any other person she had met, like someone curious to know a few things about her.

Within 10 minutes, everything was over. The visa was approved and she could then go pay for it at a bank in the same Miramar district. In five days she would be able to return and pick up her passport with the visa in it.

In the payment line at the bank, they didn’t have change for the bill with which she had planned to pay the 32 CUC (35 usd) charge for the visa. This meant she had to get in a second line to try another teller. In the end she was able to pay and to return to the consulate to deliver the proof of payment.

After that, she only had to wait five days.

Nevertheless, two days later she received a call that got her out of bed.

“Your visa is ready, you can come by and pick it up today,” a voice told her.

She was dismayed; she never imagined they would treat her so well, or that this part of the process could be so fast.

His girlfriend received the news with screaming and yelling.

But Nena still had her doubts… she wasn’t used to things going so easily. What now remained was the last step: the Cuba Exit Permit, which would have to be obtained at the Office of Immigration.

Would this step be just as fast?