Cuba Prepares for Surge in Passports

January 7, 2013 | Print Print |

One-hundred and ninety-fine offices have been set up to manage passport application following immigration reform

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities have made 195 offices operational for the processing of passports just ahead of immigration reform the taking effect in the next seven days, reported DPA news on Monday.

The long-awaited relaxation of rules related to foreign travel, which were announced by President Raul Castro in mid-October, eliminate the previously required exit permit (la carta blanca), as well as the need to provide a letter of invitation from the host country before being able to leave the island.

The measure will take effect on January 14, after which time Cuban passports will be processed without submitting those other documents.

The easing of travel has generated great expectations among the public. Virtually every Cuban has a relative abroad, especially in the United States, where the vast majority of the two million Cuban immigrants live.

Applications for passports can be made now at the Identity Card and Population Registry offices as well as at the Immigration offices, cited the Prensa Latina news agency.

“The conditions have been created in preparation of the new rules taking effect,” notes the PL article.

It is expected that immigration reform will make foreign travel a little easier for Cubans living on the island, in addition to visits to Cuba by exiles that fled the island for political and economic reasons.

Cubans currently living temporarily abroad may also extend their stays abroad from 11 to 24 months without losing their residency status in Cuba.

At the same time, it’s estimated that those people who are considered political dissidents will continue to face travel restrictions in leaving the island.

Likewise, highly skilled professionals such as doctors may have difficulty traveling abroad. Raul Castro’s government has already said it will take measures to prevent the “brain drain” that has impacted almost all nations of the Third World.


What's your opinion?

  • Humberto Capiro (El Cibergues@)

    The “Acid Test” will be if Yoani Sanchez and/or Rosa Maria Paya will be “allowed” to travel out and back into the “Island Paradise” that is Cuba! But maybe they are NOT “any other citizen”!!

    WASHINGTON POST:Cuban doctor: Medical professionals to have same travel rights as ‘any other citizen’
    “A doctor will be treated like any other citizen starting now and can exit freely, as long as the destination country allows it”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/cuban-doctor-medical-professionals-to-have-same-travel-rights-as-any-other-citizen/2013/01/07/6a64ba60-5901-11e2-b8b2-0d18a64c8dfa_story.html

  • Moses

    Through my Cuban wife, I stand to personally gain because of General Castro’s immigration reforms. However for the majority of the Cubans who still live in Cuba, these changes are meaningless. Moreover, while I am glad that I no longer have to pay 150 cuc for the ridiculous tarjeta blanca everytime my wife returned to Cuba, I realize that most Cubans can ill afford to pay the 100 cuc for the Cuban passport and then whatever costs nescessary to pay for the visa from the country they hope to visit. Many Cubans are also required to pay as much as 100 cuc for every page of their college records and diplomas. It will not be uncommon for Cubans hoping to depart Cuba to face nearly 1000 cuc in various expenses, not including airline tickets. Keeping in mind that most Cubans earn around 20 cuc per month, unless they have friends or family outside of Cuba sponsoring their travel, there is little hope that these reforms will impact their lives.

  • Ludde

    So how does a Cuban person know in advance if he/she is permitted to leave the country ? Can he/she just buy a ticket, and head for the airport ? (given that he/she already has a visa for the destination country) Or is there some kind of approval process involved, after all ? If so, what does it look like ?

    • Griffin

      They do not know in advance if they will be allowed to travel. They may travel abroad if they receive an invitation from a foreigner or foreign organization who will sponsor them. Then the Cuban must apply for permission to travel, filling out forms explaining where and what they will be doing and who they will be staying with. If their application is approved, they are issued a Carta Blanca or exit visa. Only then would they go ahead and buy a plane ticket. There are expensive fees at every step of the way. There are many reasons why a Cuban might be refused permission.

      The gov’t proposes to change this procedure soon to make it easier to leave on travel.

      • Ludde

        Thanks, but maybe I should have made it clearer that my questions pertained to the situation after January 14.

        But: I have recently heard that Cuban passports issued earlier than 2013 now needs to be “updated”. Perhaps is the result of this “update” some kind of marker in the passport, indicating if the holder is subject to travel restrictions or not.

    • Moses

      Professionals considered vital to national interests will know in advance that they must seek special approvals in order to leave the country for non-government purposes. The real question is not regarding this group of Cubans, but rather that group of Cubans who the government would consider a threat to national interests. Dissidents like Yoani Sanchez likely will not be advised in advance that they have “a snowball’s chance in hell” of getting a new passport. Time will tell…..

  • Grady Ross Daugherty

    Yes, as a US citizen, I am free to travel to any country (except perhaps to Cuba, the main obstacle being the government policies of my own country). Traveling is something of a luxury, and I would love to have the money to avail myself of it more often. But the lifting of travel restrictions on Cubans is a welcome change, and is one more step in Cuba’s struggle to improve its model of socialism.

    • Griffin

      Grady,

      US citizens can indeed travel to Cuba for what the US government calls “purposeful travel”. The US traveler is not allowed to stay in resorts or tourist hotels. The purpose of the travel must involve some sort of educational, charitable or cultural activities, such as attending a conference or a college course. You can search the US govt web for a thorough explanation of what kind of travel qualifies.

      Alternatively, you can fly to Mexico, Jamaica or Canada and then catch a connecting flight to Cuba. I have heard if you explain to the Cuban immigration authorities that you did this they will refrain from stamping your US passport. This method is technically illegal, but hundreds of US travel lies use it every year. The chances of prosecution are remote.