As Washington puts the brakes on its citizens right to travel to Cuba, the island nation has relaxed travel restrictions for Cubans.

In another major change in Cuba, the Cuban government has lifted unpopular restrictions on its citizens who wish to travel abroad.

Cubans were thrilled to learn last week that cumbersome, bureaucratic hurdles to travel will be scrapped for most travelers starting January 14th 2013. A note in the island’s Granma newspaper announced that the much reviled “carta blanca” or “white card” and exit visa will no longer be required for travel abroad.

All most Cuban travelers will need is an updated passport and a visa for the country to which they will travel, if one is required.

For many years Cubans have loudly complained about the costly requirement of securing a letter of invitation from the country to which they were traveling as well as a “permiso de salida” from Cuban Immigration that cost some $170.00 USD, about what the average Cuban earns in six months.

Obtaining the expensive documents also required multiple visits to banks and government agencies where the long lines often meant hours of waiting.

Another important change announced, was that Cubans may now stay abroad for 24 months without giving up their property and other rights in Cuba. They can also apply for longer stays if necessary. Previously, they were only allowed to stay outside the country for 11 months without sacrificing those rights.

Though the liberalization of travel restrictions will affect most Cubans, the announcement noted that Havana reserves the right to restrict the travel of some individuals for national security reasons and to prevent the loss of qualified professionals needed by the country.

Since the island boasts one of the finest education systems in Latin America, it has produced many qualified professionals over the years and has grappled with how to prevent the”brain drain” that is plaguing the developing world.

Photo Credit Global Exchange

Another obstacle that potential Cuban tourists and travelers will face is the difficulty in obtaining entry visas to industrialized nations like the United States, since the great majority are poor compared to those in developed countries.

One of the many contradictions of US policy concerning Cuba, is the “wet foot, dry foot” prevision under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. That gives any Cuban citizen who manages to get to US territory the right to permanent residence in the United States. At the same time, the US State Department regularly denies Cubans on the island permission to travel legally to the United States, which prompts many to attempt to make the dangerous journey to the United States by sea, or by other illegal means.

We will have to wait until the new policy goes into effect next year to see exactly how this exciting change in the island’s immigration policy will affect the majority of its citizens.


For more information on the work of Global Exchange in Cuba and to learn how you may qualify to travel to Cuba please give us a call (415-255-7296 ext. 211) or email