Cuba Allows Citizens to Travel Abroad

Cubans have complained for decades of their inability to travel abroad without a costly and often difficult to obtain exit permit. Photo: Caridad

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).


14 thoughts on “Cuba Allows Citizens to Travel Abroad

  • October 30, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Excellente Pero mi casa Cuba es siempre mi corazon

  • October 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Things are changing, slowly but surely…and as for the whole Alan Gross issue, why should they release him? He broke the LAWS of the country in which he was in…so he will spend many years behind bars as the criminal he is.

  • October 19, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Omar Khadr was born in Canada, but his parents took him to Afghanistan to protect him from our wicked Canadian culture. Now that he has been returned to Canada, Khadr should be tried for treason. I have no sympathy for him or his sick family.

    I have no idea what “gaffe” you allege, nor do I care. The fact you believe all Canadians share your leftist admiration of Cuba speaks volumes of your rigid mentality.

    If you read my comments, you would see that I did indeed state the new travel laws were an improvement. However, I don’t see it changing much. As for referring to Cubans as slaves of the regime, that is a characterization I have heard from many Cubans, inside and outside of Cuba. Do you seriously think Cuban’s appreciate a clueless Canadian such as yourself defending and praising their jailers?

    The day will come soon when the Cuban people can at least speak freely about their government. When that happens you won’t be best pleased what they have to say about Leftist collaborators like you.

  • October 18, 2012 at 8:33 am

    To stay on topic, I wrote what I experienced when I returned to Canada after living abroad for more than 2 years. This was in response to you characterising Cubans as “slaves” on a “longer leash” in response to the news that the Cuban government extended permission to stay abroad from 11 to 24 months.

    Instead of greeting a relaxation of a government restriction as good news as everyone save you and ;’Moses’ have done in comments, instead you characterise Cubans as slaves. So what are we looking at here? Not someone who cares about Cubans, it seems, but someone who is focused on bringing down its government.

    The only people I know who are focused on bringing down Cuba’s government are Americans. There are certainly some American wannabes in Canada, but most leave to live in the US. Neither of us know how many Canadians would go to live in the US for a period of time if they could automatically work there as it’s never been a possibility as Cubans can in the US.

    British immigration law until the 1970s allowed Australians and New Zealanders to live and work in Britain as British citizens and many emigrated, a phenomenon referred to as “re-colonisation”.

    As I wrote to ‘Moses’, decisions to emigrate are made on the basis of a perception of a better life overseas and the ease with which it can be attained. In the case of Cuban emigration to the US, both are strongly affected by American propaganda – presenting the US as superior to Cuba as you and ‘Moses’ incessantly do, characterising Cubans as slaves on a leash, for example. US laws look after making it easy to emigrate.

    The point of relating my personal experience was to put into perspective your draconian picture of Cuban emigration regulations. From the perspective of a customs and emigration officer at Pearson International Airport, my Canadian passport meant nothing to him. His primary focus was to determine how long I was away to assess what my duty-free allowance was.

    Governments have a variety of regulations they put in place to suit their agendas. Currently Canadian government agencies are scrutinising Canadians who live overseas for more than six months. We lose our health insurance coverage if so and need to go through a re qualification period to get it back.

    Cuban regulations may appear more radical but Cuba’s position is more radical than that of any country I’ve lived in. As the article notes, “Washington is encouraging illegal immigration with its admission policy for Cuban refugees” that “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.”

    As for Alan Gross, you and ‘Moses’, the prime US propagandists on HT, claim “the issue of Alan Gross must be properly resolved first” before Washington will stop its exceptional immigration policy. Gross was arrested a year and a half ago, the Cuba Adjustment Act has been around for more than 45 years. And if Gross was released? Another ‘excuse’ would obviously be found.

    If you want Gross released, release the Cuban 5 and he’s yours. Too bad you didn’t have the same concern for Omar Khadr when he was held by Americans at Guantanamo. He’s Canadian, you know, but you are more concerned about an American it seems.

    As for you not being Canadian, as long as you embrace American policy, hook, line and sinker, I will use the rule, “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Everything you have written about Canada is available through googling. The last time this subject came up, I pointed out a gaffe you made claiming to be Canadian. You never responded.

  • October 17, 2012 at 9:26 am


    Are you saying if the US granted automatic residency to Canadians, that millions of Canadians would move to the US? I don’t think so. Some do immigrate to the US, just as some Americans emigrate to Canada.

    I really don’t care whether you believe I am Canadian, but I do find it odd that you insist I am not. I was born and raised in Toronto, where I live today. I have never lived outside Canada, but I have travelled to the US, Cuba & Europe. I have met a Cuban musician who resides in Toronto for extended periods but must return to Cuba regularly to preserve his legal status. If he stayed too long in Canada, he would be in trouble with the Cuban authorities. He could easily slip into the US if he chose to, but he has decided not to leave Cuba permanently.

    I have no idea why the immigration official told you that, as this website for Canadian expats makes clear,

    “As a Canadian citizen, you are free to travel and live where you choose. Relocating to another country, even on a permanent basis, does not affect your status as a Canadian citizen. You may remain a Canadian citizen as long as you wish.”

    All that aside, on the subject of the Cuban gov’t eliminating the Exit Visa, I do think it is a good idea. It will help normalize Cuba’s relationship with the rest of the world. It would be appropriate if the US responded by allowing freer travel to Cuba by Americans. But as Moses points out, the issue of Alan Gross must be properly resolved first.

  • October 17, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Hi ‘Karen’, can you supply a link to the John McAuliff article you refer to? Thanks, ‘L’

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