HAVANA TIMES (dpa) — A long-anticipated reform to ease restrictions on Cubans who wish to travel abroad went into force Monday, meaning Cubans will no longer need an exit permit and an invitation from their intended destination to be allowed to travel.
The government of Cuban President Raul Castro had announced in mid-February plans to lift travel restrictions, which were among the reforms most longed-for among citizens of the Communist country.
From Monday, Cubans need only a valid passport and a visa from their destination country to be able to temporarily travel abroad.
Under the new legislation, Cubans will also be allowed to stay abroad for up to 24 months, compared with 11 months until now.
Further, migrants who have illegally left Cuba since 1994 will also be allowed to return.
It remained uncertain whether qualified professionals, such as Cuba’s doctors and its most prestigious athletes, would be allowed to travel abroad without restrictions. The same doubts applied to the country’s dissidents.
Award-winning Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, one of the most outspoken dissidents to the Castro government, applied for a passport Monday. She has repeatedly been denied exit permits in recent years on some 20 occasions, and with them the chance to collect awards and distinctions abroad.
“I guess I’ll have my passport in the first week of February and I will be able to travel … I keep my fingers crossed. I’ll believe it when I’m in the plane!” she said on the social network Twitter.
The reform is also a challenge for the United States, which grants residency to all Cubans who arrive on its soil even if they did so illegally. Washington has said it has no plans to change policy for now.