After decades of strict entry and exit rules, the Cuban government recently announced that it will modify immigration regulations. Citizens were previously required to obtain a letter of invitation from a destination country and an exit visa to leave Cuba before being allowed to travel for business or pleasure.
This marks a huge step for the communist-ruled country, as most Cubans will now simply have to show their passport, national identity card and travel visa to visit countries abroad. However, many may still find it difficult to obtain tourist visas in the United States and other countries. Several governments around the world believe Cuban citizens will use the visa to flee the island and not return home.
“The changes also mean that Cuba now gives its citizens more freedom to travel to the United States than the U.S. gives its citizens to travel to Cuba,” said John McAuliff of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.
The United States currently accepts approximately 20,000 Cuban immigrants each year, most of whom come to the United States to reunite with family members. U.S. officials have an arrangement nicknamed the “wet foot, dry foot” policy for Cuban nationals arriving by water. The policy works under the idea that individuals who manage to reach the United States without being intercepted at sea will be granted proper paperwork, but those found on the water before touching U.S. soil will be picked up and returned back to the island.
Cuba’s new policy will begin on January 14, 2013.
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