x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cubans will no longer need exit visas to travel

The measure also extends to 24 months the amount of time Cubans can remain abroad, and they can request an extension when that runs out.

HAVANA // The Cuban government will no longer require its citizens to apply for an exit visa to leave the country, eliminating a much-loathed bureaucratic procedure that has been a major obstacle for many wanting to travel overseas.

The Cuban government imposed the restrictions on travel in 1961 to prevent a mass migration of people fleeing after the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power.

A notice published in the Communist Party newspaper Granma yesterday also said that from January 13, when the rule changes take effect, Cubans will no longer have to present a letter of invitation to travel abroad. They will only be required to show their passport and a visa from the country they plan to visit.

"As part of the work under way to update the current migratory policy and adjust it to the conditions of the present and the foreseeable future, the Cuban government, in exercise of its sovereignty, has decided to eliminate the procedure of the exit visa for travel to the exterior," the notice read.

The measure also extends to 24 months the amount of time Cubans can remain abroad, and they can request an extension when that runs out. Currently, Cubans lose residency and other rights, including social security and free health care and education, after 11 months.

Still, the notice said Cuba planned to limit travel within unspecified sectors.

Doctors, scientists, members of the military and others considered valuable parts of society currently face restrictions on their travel to combat brain drain.

"The update to the migratory policy takes into account the right of the revolutionary state to defend itself from the interventionist and subversive plans of the US government and its allies," the note said. "Therefore, measures will remain to preserve the human capital created by the revolution in the face of the theft of talent applied by the powerful."

Migration is a highly politicised issue in Cuba and beyond its borders.

More than one million people of Cuban origin live in the United States, and thousands more are in Europe.

* Associated Press, with additional reporting by Reuters