Where Cubans Can Go Without a Visa

Yasmín S. Portales Machado

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — As of Wednesday we’re allowed to leave, but in Cuba we’re proceeding with caution in this matter.  Where will they accept us?  How much is our money and our resourcefulness worth?  Nothing is certain or made easy for us, since several consulates have already increased their requirements for issuing a visa.

One piece of information circulating widely at this very moment is the list of countries that don’t require this preliminary procedure.  The data is pertinent, although it remains to be seen how quickly it may change.  Ecuador has just announced that as of January 21 it will require a letter of invitation legalized by the Consulate in order to enter their territory.  All right, so we’re left with 34 other possible destinations!

And it’s not only about the visa.  You have to do some accounting: where are the prices lowest, the possibilities of employment best, the streets the calmest (it’s not about going to the Gaza Strip either).  In this XXIst century, emigrating is ever less an act of faith that “anywhere will be less miserable than where I am,”, and more a choice about where our acquired skills might yield the best results.

For that reason, I began to think about the laws and customs.  Few Cuban women, I imagine, would be interested in going to Saudi Arabia and be left without even the right to drive a car.  Few Cuban gays would be interested in Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death.  Given that thought, it occurred to me to cross-reference the list of countries that (still) don’t require a visa with each one’s laws regarding homosexuality.  I believe that this data is useful for everyone, at least in order to know what to expect.

The list has been ordered by continents:

Continent Country  Normativa LGBT rights
1 Botswana Up to 90 days Illegal (Fine – 7 years imprisonment)
2 Guinea Up to 90 days Illegal (6 months to 3 years imprisonment)
Kenya Up to 90 days, Payment of 25 USD required upon arrival. Male illegal (Up to 14 years’ imprisonment) / Female not specifically covered by the Penal Code
3 Namibia Up to 90 days Illegal (not enforced)
4 Seychelles Up to 30 days Male illegal / Female legal
5 Togo Up to 7 days Illegal (Fine and/or a 3 year imprisonment)
6 Uganda Visa given upon arrival. Male Illegal (Up to life in prison) / Female: Illegal.  A law proposed in 2009 (pending) would increase the punishment for “repeat violators” and persons with HIV, including the death penalty. It proposes to hamper LGBT rights activists by prohibiting their literature and speaking in public about such topics. It would add Lesbian sexual acts to the list.
The Americas
7 Dominica Up to 28 days Illegal (10 year prison sentence or incarceration in a psychiatric institution )
8 Grenada Up to 60 days Male illegal (10 year imprisonment) / Female legal
9 Haití Up to 90 days Legal
10 Saint Kitts and Nevis Up to 30 days Male illegal (10 years imprisonment) / Female legal
11 Saint Lucia Up to 45 days Male illegal (Fine and/or 10 year imprisonment) / Female legal
12 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Up to 30 days llegal (Fine and/or 10 year imprisonment)
13 Cambodia Up to 30 days, Payment of 20 USD required upon arrival. Legal
14 Georgia Visa given upon arrival. Legal. Se permite la adopción por personas homosexuales, pero no el matrimonio.
15 Kyrgyzstan Up to 30 days, Payment of between 40 and 100 USD required upon arrival. Legal
16 Laos Up to 30 days, Payment of 30 USD required upon arrival. Legal
17 Malasya Up to 90 days Illegal (Fines, prison sentence (2-20 years), or whippings)
18 Maldives Up to 90 dí30 USD required upon arrival. d upg coach na, Brazil and host Japan.ixture on the national team for the last 13 years30 días Criminal code does not criminalize same-sex sexual relations; sharia law does
19 Mongolia Up to 30 days Legal
20 Singapore Up to 30 days Male illegal (Up to 2 years prison sentence; not enforced since 1999) / Female legal
21 East Timor Up to 30 days, Payment of 25 USD required upon arrival. Legal
22 Indonesia Up to 30 days, Payment of 10 USD required upon arrival. Legal except for Muslims in Aceh Province
23 Belarus Up to 30 days Legal
24 Montenegro Up to 90 days Legal. Law forbids all anti-gay discrimination and discrimination based on gender identity
25 Russia Up to 30 days Legal from 1917 to 1930 and since 1993. Saint Petersburg ban the “propaganda” of homosexualism until 2112.
26 Serbia Up to 90 days Legal.
27 Cook Islands Up to 31 days Male illegal / Female legal
28 Federated States of Micronesia Up to 30 days Legal
30 Niue Up to 30 days Legal
31 Palau Up to 30 days Male illegal / Female legal
32 Samoa Up to 60 days Ilegal.
33 Tuvalu Up to 30 days Male illegal (Up to 14 years imprisonment) / Female legal
34 Vanuatu Up to 30 days Legal



29 thoughts on “Where Cubans Can Go Without a Visa

  • i am going to help a Cuban to get out, that’s all , no marriage. They get their own papers I get them their flight. If they want it bad enough, they will find a way to do this. Who knows, if it will work or not.

  • dear Sue
    i am very sorry to hear of our heartbreaking story .. but it seems some of them are just using our kindness , to extract and use us for their own gains ,
    i met my husband in cuba , i made sure i have observed him at a distant and spend 2 years to see if this is a scam , for the 2 years ,before we got married , he was always , happy , cheerful , very sweet, very understanding , kind and just what you wish for in a life long partner ., also i applied for him to visit me in UK for 6 months to ensure we are compatible , and he is what he said he was…. everything went well .. so 6 months later , by then , we had been in a relationship for over 2 years , we got married in June 2017 , i have applied for a visitor visa again for July 2017 for a stay of 6 months… .
    , slowly , his attitude changed towards me , to cut the long story short , i found out while his stay in UK , he was in a relationship with a cuban woman before he met me , i found out on one of his cell phone , they sent each other naked photo and video masturbating , him calling her name while he is naked in MY BED when i was at work and having multiple jobs to support him ,,, and to add more insult to this , as soon as me and him got married , when i left back to UK , she got pregnant , and now they have a child together .. all i can say is.. we are not the only ones , i have many friends who are married to cuban men in various european countries , and none of them are happy , as these men are just using us for their own gains..i just hope if anyone wishing to get involved with the cubans , maybe best go and live there with them in their environment and able to speak spanish , then the observation might be clearer before you made that dreaded mistakes..

  • I hope it is as easy as stated above. I live in the UK but planning a holiday in Malaysia for 2018 . My friend in Cuba wants to join me . I just hope it will be easy for him to leave Cuba

  • @ mario mora

    Yes but you a a convicted cokedealer and not welcome outside of Cuba.
    So please stay calm in judging other people.

    ‘In the grand scheme of things, it could be worse. Mario Mora Medina could still be in a dank jail cell in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, stranded with dozens of other Cubans in a legal limbo — they had finished prison sentences for various crimes but remained in custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service because they were considered deportable. The United States had no extradition treaty with Cuba, however, so they remained locked up. Mora had been in INS custody for five years. He and others hoped for a miracle that might spring them from jail and send them back to Cuba for some maduros and a little rice and beans.

    Then again, it could be better. What began as an emotional jail uprising in December 1999, and led to him and five others being sent back to Cuba, has deteriorated into a life of hustling on the streets of Havana. The island has become a new prison, but Mora is hardly poised to start another revolt.

    In a way, Mora is a perfect Cuban hustler. He exchanges hellos in flawless English with the foreigners who meander around central Havana. In a self-effacing, almost defensive manner he offers them chicas, a restaurant, or a casa particular, private homes with rental rooms for visitors. His specialty is locally made cigars, especially Cohibas. For a time he was an interpreter at one of the cigar factories. “I can get you habanas for cheap, and with the seal,” he beseeches the pale-skinned Europeans strolling along the seaside Malecón.

    Mora is a skeleton of what he was when Cuban prisoners stormed the control room of the jail in the tiny southern Louisiana town of St. Martinville. He’s lost 40 pounds since arriving in Cuba. Skin seems to hang from his full frame; his weathered face makes him look older than his 36 years. “I don’t need no Jenny Craig,” he says in his scratchy baritone. “I got the Fidel Castro diet.”

    The jail uprising that sent him to Cuba was Mora’s defining moment. It’s the first thing he talks about when you meet him. He recounts every detail: the abuse he claims led to the revolt; the fear on the guards’ faces after the prisoners had overpowered them; negotiating on the phone with the FBI; watching a fellow inmate having sex with a female prisoner on a security monitor; the laser spots on his shirt from the SWAT team’s rifles; the helicopters hovering above. But for Mora it was never violent. He wasn’t part of the scheme, he claims, only the solution. Mora and a fellow prisoner gave up after five days and released several hostages. Two days later the rest of the prisoners did the same.

    Mora and five others were sent to Cuba via a special arrangement between the Clinton administration and the Castro government. Mora was petrified. “Cuba scared the shit out of me,” he says. “I felt like I was in Russia.” But he and the others were treated as heroes. Several high-ranking military officers greeted them when they landed. “You stepped on the yanquis,” one of the officers proudly told the group.

    The Cubans took them to what Mora can only describe as “a government building” in Havana. For the next 45 days authorities subjected them to a battery of medical and psychological exams. Between testing the men slept in dorm rooms, ate three square meals a day, and watched satellite television. “They treated us well,” Mora recounts. “I have no complaints.”

    Mora was different from the other deportees — more American than Cuban. He’d come to Miami with his mother when he was two years old in the early Seventies, attended Shenandoah elementary and middle schools, then Miami High. After two of his brothers arrived during the Mariel boatlift, the three began selling drugs. Mora moved cocaine and heroin up and down the East Coast until he was arrested while trying to steal a stash of coke from a Miami warehouse. Other arrests followed until his rap sheet — which included burglary, sexual assault, escape from custody, and drug sales — landed him in prison, then into INS custody in a Louisiana jail.

    At the Cuban government building Mora’s new guards explained to him the ways of the island. “They told me not get involved with drugs or guns,” he recalls. “They said that things were different in Cuba.” After the final medical testing, the Cuban government took the men to homes of their relatives, where they were left to fend for themselves. Mora stayed for a few weeks with his brother, his brother’s girlfriend, and their two kids in a house near the airport before renting his own apartment for $30 a month. Then the never-ending scramble for work began. “I figured with my English I would get a job here, so I went to the fancy hotels,” he remembers. “And they’d ask, ‘Where did you go to school?’ Miami. ‘Oh, then don’t call us, we’ll call you.'”

    A few rejections later and Mora was using his English on tourists. “I stay away from the hard-time shit, but I hustle to survive,” Mora says squarely when you ask him what he does for a living. “Cigars are the major market here, and that’s what I stay with. No one gets hurt and I make a few bucks.”

    Mora’s strategy: “I just sit at the Malecón, and when they walk by I say, ‘Are you here on vacation?’ They notice my accent and we start talking. I tell them that I [smuggled] people to the U.S. I use that as a pitch.”‘

  • I would like to bet that all the ladies who provided you with “many opportunities to marry and go somewhere else” are glad today that you stayed in Cuba,
    I recall my wife – she is Cuban – saying that she would never marry a Cuban man: “because they are too macho”. You seem to support her view.
    US population is about 326 million and increasing. Cuban population is below 11.1 million and decreasing. Goodbye!

  • i was raised in the states born in Cuba and for the past 18 yrs been living in havana. i have had many opportunities to marry and go somewhere else, and i know many many cubans males and females that you couldn’t pay them to leave believe it or not…so please leave your stereotyping where it belongs..check yourself and yours before u break yourself..

    so philippinos nothing to say about them or any other poor country?? Cubans damn ..if u need to travel to another country to find a mate, sorry this is not stereotype is reality and a fact! Theres something wrong..in the states there 400 million people in cuba 12, helloooooooo..

  • Thanks Marie, I am in the same situation in love with a Cuban and I like us to meet in Jamaica, please advice me as to how he can meet me in Jamaica he is telling me they will not allow him to get a visa to go into Jamaica. I am a Jamaican living in the States for twenty-five years and I would like to go home invite my Cuban boy friend to meet me in Montego Bay .please help

  • what was the requirement getting him to jamaica? how did this work with getting a visa for jamaica for your cuban husband?
    I am asking because I want to invite my girlfriend to jamaica but apparently she needs a visa

  • I am a Cuban man and I would never do such a thing, but I have to acknowledge that there are bad people and other that are desperate to get out and would do anything to leave Cuba.

  • No, it actually took 54 years because Castro’s totalitarian regime controls everything “ideologically” and they hold us hostages and officially deprive us of our individual freedom.. Now, they are just changing strategies, to mask for a merry political facade and to facilitated the entrance of USA $$$$$ capital for the strengthening of their regime, that is all.

  • Sadly It is actually the norm, a few good apples are the exception. We have been lied, use, abuse use indoctrinated massively since 1959, Finding Cubans who are truly sincere and direct is indeed rather rare and that’s the truth

  • I feel your pain my dear, god bless you … Look up from withing and you will not be without, Salud y Amor !!!

  • I’m sorry this happened to you but this is most certainly not the norm. And judging others by a few bad apples is wrong.

  • Cuban’s must do the paperwork from Cuba. Only legal residents of the other country you might be in can use that US embassy or consulate to apply for a visa to the US. I married my Cuban husband in Jamaica but the US embassy in Jamaica would have nothing to do with our visa process since I was not a legal resident in Jamaica nor was he. My word of advice: don’t marry a Cuban if you are American unless he or she is out of Cuba already and stable on his or her own. It took 9 years for us to have Cuba let him go and once here; even with our daughter, he wanted to head to Miami asap….see the woman from Canada’s comments below. This is the norm; not the exception.

  • Sue, I am very sorry for your suffering. I pray the LORD heals you of this and convicts your husbands heart of what he has done. I pray Jesus saves your husband and he repents and comes to his senses.

  • Agree with you. I was one that didn’t had to pay the insulting exit permit I would when tried to travel before. However things didn’t changed much I must agree too. On the contrary many countries just closed doors more and unfortunately that is not our right to demand unless of course the government demand a reciprocity treaty they will never demand cause they don’t want professionals to go and look for better jobs in countries where they offer decent salary or higher life standard and pay a misery instead because they hold the job employment monopoly.

  • If a Cuban goes on vacation legaly to any of the countries that dosen’t need a visa and I visit the same country as well and marry him, will this work to claim him or bring him to usa or does he need to return to Cuba and wait for paper work to be finilized. I’m an american. Thank you in advance for your response

  • My husband went to the US border recently and claimed political asylum or the Cuban adjustment act :'( from Canada It took me almost 2 years to get him out of Cuba and he was here only 2 months. I am devastated. We met in 2003 married in 2012 and he arrived in June 2014. Could not marry before 2012 as I had breast cancer twice and was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Follicular Lymphoma Set 2013.Just finished chemo at the end of March. I fought so hard for him to get out and fought for us to be together for so long with all the strength of my heart and of myself. He did not get his visa to Canada initially and I had to hire a lawyer, borrow money. He could not remember so many surgery dates I had. This is my worst nightmare. He left me on Long term disability and racked up $3,000.00 debt while he was here and I used all of my savings and 3 credit cards to marry him and get him out lawyer Immigration consultant fees. He was a completely different person after a couple of weeks of arriving. I am so depressed, broken,devastated utterly. I thought I was safe with him after so many years together. I am in shock and cannot believe this has happened. He is in of course
    Miami where his sister and other family members are.Don’t need English there. I married the love of my life. I am so devastated </3 :'(

  • this is all the countries cubans dont need visa??? I saw in Wikipedia, to China i dont need visa if i stay till 30 days as in Russia, or isn’t??? someone can check if to China i need visa?
    if someone knows please writte me [email protected]

  • No, you cannot trust them. It took them 54 years because they have no alternative.

  • Well you need sort of a permit to leave the US to go to Cuba, even though there are creative ways to get around it.

    I think Yasmin’s article is very important for many reasons and she begins by stating the economic’s and other concerns but the human rights issue should be paramount to us all, whether LGBT, straight or having to do with racial profiling.

    One would think the ALBA countries would lower their visa requirements since its suppose to be about intergration and something other than the capitalist model that is taking place.

    I hope this is a step in the correct direction but as all things the proof of the pudding is in the eating.


  • No to mention those who are banned to return to they’re own country.
    But maybe that’s the kind of “drama” Andersons prefer not to look at

  • Well, but that is a gay friendly country list, isnt it? Nothing to do with the new Cuban immigration law.

  • Tim, you obviously never had to apply for a Cuban exit permit. Neither have I but my wife did. Never mind the insulting 100cuc cost. Up until the moment you have it in your hand, you remain terrified that you may be among the 0.6% that did NOT receive permission to leave. You have to receive permissions from your boss in your employ, from the dean of your university if you are or were a student and if you have a home, the government must come and inspect your home to ensure you have all the government property that you have paid for still in your home like the refrigerator and the rice cooker! Believe me, for Cubans to no longer have to submit to this demeaning and ridiculous process is indeed a BIG deal.

  • Canada requires a visa, however our country is very welcoming toward Cubans, we have a gay-positive society (Toronto & Vancouver have large and active gay communities) and the economy is doing better than just about anywhere right now.

  • Can you trust a government that requires a permit to leave the country. If that was the case why it took them 53 years to remove that law?

  • You need a visa to travel to the US, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Mexico or Canada. So I have no idea how you can get without a visa to a US Border legally.

  • What about the US? Can’t a Cuban simply arrive at a US border office and receive papers to stay and work?

  • “As of Wednesday we’re allowed to leave” is dramatic. According to the government, 99.4% of those who applied for an exit permit over the last 12 years, got it.

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