Fernando Ravsberg*

Immigration offices are full of people attempting to obtain passports before the price goes up on January 14. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — Thousands of Cubans are lining up outside of Immigration Agency offices to apply for passports before January 14, the date on which the new law takes effect that will ease the entry and exit from the country by most citizens.

For many Cubans, next month will mean the disappearance of letters of invitation and exit permits, whose cost implied paying $350 USD for each trip and the prospective travelers getting bogged down in cumbersome, prolonged and additional paperwork.

The cost of a passport will increase from $50 to $100 USD, however the Immigration Agency is informing people that anyone with a previously valid passport can have it reauthorized so that it can be used until its final expiration date.

Many people who don’t even plan to leave the country are going through the process of obtaining a passport at half price just in case they’re presented with an opportunity to leave the country over the next six years, the duration of a Cuban passport.

Some, but not everybody

In an immigration line in the “October 10 Municipality,” retiree Rafael Perez told us that he has a stepdaughter who lives in Spain, therefore he wants to have his passport ready “so I’ll have one less expense in case I go see her someday.”

He supports the new law because it will “bring more unity to families to the extent that you can visit without it being as expensive as before.”

But not everyone will have the same luck as Rafael, because we know that some people won’t benefit from the reform.

Ivon Celestrín, a doctor getting her passport to be able to visit her daughter. Photo: Raquel Perez

Physician Ivon Celestrin has a 15-year-old daughter who will soon be traveling to the US to reunite with her father. The doctor is getting a passport because she hasn’t lost the hope of one day being able to go see her daughter if the laws continue to be relaxed.

“For me it creates a problem because I’m a doctor. But when my daughter leaves, I’ll begin a tireless struggle to achieve a status that will allow me to travel to see her regularly,” explained the physician while standing in the immigration line.

On your marks!

Anabel Castaneda told us that after the immigration reform was announced, her 73-year-old father was invited by his brothers in New York for the first time in 50 years, so “I want to take advantage of the chance to get a passport because if I wait it will cost me twice as much.”

Yuri Orlando Morales is married to a Dutch woman and is leaving the country, but before departing he wants to have his whole family ready to travel. “I brought my sister and my dad. You have to obey the law but you also have to take advantage of it when it’s to your benefit,” he reasons.

“My in-laws are in Angola, they’re economists. I’m a metal worker and I want to go live with them. I’ll see if I can get a job there. But you have to save all you can, which is why I’m getting a passport now, while it’s cheaper,” said Osmel Faez, a graduate from the trade school set up by the Havana Historian’s Office.


There are always losers, and this time they’ll be the independent workers who live off of the services they provide to people to help with their paperwork and immigration processing. Photo: Raquel PerezBut not all Cubans see the new immigration law as a relief; on the contrary, for them it raises the risk of their losing good jobs and incomes that are higher than any state employee.

Marte Aria, for example, lives near an immigration office and has worked making passport photos, and copying and printing many of the documents that were required of potential travelers to get their exit permits.

“Having to give up that job is a blow for me because I’ll lose what has been my source of financial wellbeing,” she said. She went on to explain that beginning in January, the photos that appear in the printed document will be handled within the Immigration Agency office.

Juan Carlos Vazquez used to type out the forms “for passports, visas, etc.,” he said, adding that: “on the 14th I’ll stop working; I’ll cease to exist because presumably they won’t have to fill out any paperwork anymore. I don’t even want to think about it.”
(*) See Fernando Ravsberg’s blog at Cartasdesdecuba.com

15 thoughts on “Cuban Immigration Offices Overflowing

  • No you’re not a skeptic, you are a sophist.

  • In October, when I had to renew my tourist visa to stay a few weeks longer, I visited the immigration office on Calle 15 in Vedado (a few blocks from the Bertolt Brecht Theatre); to do this in a timely manner, I had to arrive around 5:30 a.m. (the office opens ’til 8:30 a.m.). By 7:00 a.m. the lines stretched down the street to Calle K, and around the block. Unlike me, however, most of these folks were trying to emmigrate. (Incidentally, there was a thriving, street-side business of folks with typewriters who were typing up the documents of those seeking to emmigrate–the new economy!) Still, there were a goodly number, mostly expatriate Cubans, but also some estranjeros with girl-friends or boy-friends, who were trying to extend their visas. As ill-luck would have it, I had to return yet again (another early-rising morning) with verification I was staying at either a registered casa particular or hotel. Both times, however, I was out of the hurley-burley by mid-morning.

  • Call me a sceptic, but let’s just wait three more weeks or so until January 14. I have every confidence that the Castros have figured out a way to screw this up and when they do, yes, I will complain.

  • These US Secretary of State representatives are incredible. They turn good news to bad news, or irrelevant news, just to nitpick. I remember talking about traveling abroad being in fact a privilege all around the world because of the costs involved in it and then I was confronted with ‘do not confuse a privilege with a right’. Well, Cubans now have this ‘right’, deal with it, you’ve got NO reason to complain anymore about it.

  • Does anyone know if the following fees will continue to be paid to the Cuban “government”?? And what about all those tests etc. that have to be paid in dollars or CUC’s??

    HAVANA TIMES : The (Non) Right of Cubans to Travel -Haroldo Dilla Alfonso-February 1, 2010-

    On top of this, once in the destination country, the traveler must make payments to the Cuban embassy in that country a sum that varies each month they remain in that country, which is a highly uncustomary practice. This sum fluctuates between $40 and $150 a month.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *