She Doesn’t Have a Passport

July 13, 2012 | Print Print |

Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES — The issue I’ll address here is Cuban immigration policy and the hoped for “possible changes” in it.

This is a matter that has many people full of expectations since at the Communist Party Congress in April 2011, when upcoming reforms were announced concerning this important social issue.

Words like “visas,” “passports,” and “tickets,” so common for most of the world’s population, exist to us like notions from a sort of fantasy world.

A passport — that document that proves citizenship, identifies its owner and lets you travel from one country to another — is a rare and alien certification to most Cubans.

It can only be obtained when you receive a letter of invitation to travel abroad (from a friend, lover or relative), or when you are assigned to travel for your job on an aid mission, by your school for training, or when you win a scholarship.

Only under these circumstances can a Cuban pass through the entryway to the Immigration Office to apply for a passport, which will cost 55 CUCs (US $65).

It stands to reason that since opportunities to travel are so remote, no one would think of spending 55 CUCs (equivalent to three months of the average take-home salary) just to say they have a passport – not unless the possibility of a journey was assured.

Nonetheless, a friend of mine paid dearly for not having a passport. She was applying for a scholarship in Spain, and for this she had to fill out a form that asked for all of the relevant documentation. But one blank spaced remained: her passport number.

My friend met all of the requirements to earn a spot; her transcripts were impressive and she qualified in everything else. She made the cut in the first round of selections, but they sent her an urgent email asking for her passport number.

She explained the specifics of this process in Cuba and explained that it was going to take her at least 15 days to comply with their request. With that she thought she had convinced the Spanish selection committee.

In just a week, the results of the competition were made public online. My friend wasn’t on the list, but she received an email from the selection committee. They expressed their regret concerning her case, especially since she had appeared to be an ideal candidate for enrollment.

Notwithstanding, they noted that she had failed to provide one crucial bureaucratic detail: a passport number.


What's your opinion?

  • Hans Saurenmann

    It was a mistake on her side, when I have to obtain a Passport it takes at least a month nothing unusual here. In the world we live in there is no mercy for mistake. If she wants to make the same opportunity a success she has to be ready now and apply for a Passport. Good Luck!!

  • Rigo

    @Hans

    Maybe you should re-read the article. The time it takes to get a passport isn’t the only hinder in getting it. In the case of Janis friend she has to prove why she needs it with an personal invitation letter from the University or company giving her the scholarship. As you know you will not get said letter until you have been selected for the scholarship so Janis friend is stuck in a catch 22.
    On a side note, where I live it takes 4 days to get a passport.

  • http://www.isallaboutmath.com Julio de la Yncera

    Hans, I believe your are missing the point.
    The point is that the price for a passport is too high for the average Cuban. To give you an idea de average monthly salary is about 17 CUC. So they will have to save their full salary of about 3 month to pay for a passport. There is no justification for such a high price for the passport other than goverment greed.

  • Hans Saurenmann

    One of my friends a Cuba Passholder I have invited to Switzerland last December and I had to sign also an Invitation, nothing for free in this World except in Cuba? What I have said was in light of you take care on your own business and do not depend on others, if you need a Passport you have to save in any Country to pay for it, an US Passport is around CUC 100.00 this days, and a Swiss Passport around CUC 300.00. Do you think my friend had the money to stay in Switzerland, no way Jose I paid for it!! I am now 69 years old and have allways supported my family and mayself, I never took any handout, and what you think happens in Cuba, even the Hotel Room Bar inside your Room is not safe, this is an issue of ethics and standards, nothing is free in this world. Please do not sugar it up, it is realy not helpful for the future of the Cuban people.

    • Mark G

      No one has disagreed that there should be a reasonable fee for a passport. In the Canadian province where I live the average monthly salary is about $4,400 per month. The cost of a Canadian passport (valid for 5 years) is $87, or about 2% of an average monthly salary.

      If there was an charge in Canada equivalent to that of a Cuban passport, it would cost me $13,200 to get a passport.

    • http://www.isallaboutmath.com Julio de la Yncera

      Hans Cubans would also paid for themselves if they could. Again keep in perspective the very extremely low salary they make or think about what Mark G juste mentioned. Ask yourself, would you pay the amount corresponding to 3 month of an average swiss for a passport?
      By the way I forgot to mention that the Cuban passport expires very quickly too.
      $100 for a person earning minimun wage in the US is less than 3 days of work. But in Cuba you need 3 month.

      Do you see the colossal disparity?

    • Luis

      It’s difficult to compare these things when you have two rich, developed and highly industrialized countries with a much higher standard of living and income with a poor underdeveloped one…

      • http://www.isallaboutmath.com Julio de la Yncera

        Ok Luis how about if we go back in time when the switzerland was poorer or the US was poorer do you think that will be a more fair comparison. I am sure the passport price in the US was not $100 before it was probably a lot less.
        55 CUC for a cuban is a lot of money because their government clearly makes it that way. If they earn comparable salaries then they will be able to afford it. But as it is the average Cuban can not really even afford to pay for their passports. Would you agree to that?

        Clearly the Cuban elite is in control of how much they pay people in Cuba and how much things cost.
        A passport is just a piece of bureaucratic paper. That probably cost less than 1 CUC with bureaucratic work included for its production and dispensing. The question is. What happen to the rest of all that money collected? Where does it go? to pay for what?

        • Luis

          Well, then we would have to go back in time a lot…

          Anyway I agree that the Cuban passport is expensive. Clear?

          • http://www.isallaboutmath.com Julio de la Yncera

            Luis, Thanks.

            If we go back in time we will also find the cuban passport even during the revolutionary period was not this expensive. When I left Cuba in 1989 it used to cost much less than what it cost now. If I remember correctly it used to cost less than 100 Cuban pesos at that time. No sure how much it was before the revolution but I am sure it never cost as much as the cost is now.
            As you know they use their consular services as a mean of collecting hard currency. For example they rent Cubans that come to visit family for about 150 dollars a month. They also charge Cubans outside if they like to visit relative in Cuba even bigger amounts for a passport. Around 365 dollars and the passport expires in about 2 years and then you also have to pay for a white card and that is about 150 dollars more. So as you can see these is a lucrative business for them.
            They are cashing in the misery of the Cuban people. They are cashing in and exploiting the Cubans outside Cuba. No system that do that this to their own citizens deserves any respect. Because is no human. It is monstrous.

            What do they do with all this money collected?