HAVANA TIMES — Cuba will allow citizens to travel abroad without first obtaining exit permits, a key and long awaited reform of President Raul Castro reported DPA news.
Beginning January 14, 2013, Cubans will be able to leave the island with only a valid passport and visa from the country of destination, the Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday.
The long-awaited immigration reform eliminates the presentation of a letter of invitation and the processing of the “carte blanche” (exist permit) needed by Cubans for decades to leave the country. At the same time, the Cuban government announced it would take unspecified steps to “preserve the human capital created by the revolution.”
The reform also extends permission to stay abroad from 11 to 24 months. Cubans who already have exit visas in their passports “may leave the country without a new process,” the statement said.
Current immigration laws also prohibit Cubans uninterrupted stay abroad under penalty of losing their property on the island and the possibility of return.
In mid-2011, Raul Castro’s government announced immigration reform as part of a series of profound economic adjustments to “update” the Cuban model with market elements.
The new immigration measures “are inscribed in the irreversible process of the normalization of relations of emigrants with their country,” said an editorial in the official Granma newspaper,
published in its online version.
The travel ban has caused serious crisis with US immigration over the last half century, such as the wave of “balseros” (rafters) in 1994, and the Mariel exodus in 1980 (when the Cuban government allowed exiles to temporarily boat-lift their relatives from that port).
While distributed in many countries, the vast majority of Cuban emigrants live in the United States.
Havana accuses Washington of encouraging illegal immigration with its admission policy for Cuban refugees (the Cuban Adjustment Act and its so-called “dry foot, wet foot” policy), which automatically give Cubans who reach US territory a fast-track to permanent residency.
“The updated immigration policy takes into account the state’s right to defend itself against the interventionist and subversive plans of the US government and its allies,” the Cuban government said in its statement today.
“For this reason, measures shall be maintained to preserve the human capital created by the revolution, in the face from talent theft by the powerful nations,” it added.
It’s estimated that Havana will continue to impose restrictions on the outflow of professionals such as doctors to prevent a mass exodus. It also remains unclear whether the measure will allow temporary travel abroad for political dissidents like blogger Yoani Sanchez, who has been denied exit visas on 20 occasions
See the immigration reform text in the Gaceta Oficial (in Spanish).