Last Tuesday, Cuba announced that it will no longer require its citizens to get exit visas before they are allowed to travel abroad. According to the official news report released in Cuba’s State newspaper, this new policy will take effect starting January 14, 2013. For decades, the Cuban government has forbidden its citizens from leaving the country without permission in the form of a government issued exit visa, only given to few for mostly political purposes. The Cuban government will still retain the ability to deny travel on the basis of national security and defense.
However, just because Cuban citizens may be allowed to leave Cuba, this does not mean it will be any easier for them to enter the United States. Currently, the US immigration policy for Cuban immigrants has been the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy since 1995. Under this policy, Cubans citizens that flee Cuba intending to come to the United States, are allowed to stay only if they reach American soil, but are turned away if they are met offshore by US authorities.
The US State Department said Tuesday that it welcomes Cuba’s new policy to abolish exit visas and allow Cuban citizens to travel freely abroad, but the US has no intention to change its policy regarding Cuban citizens seeking to enter the United States.
Cuban citizens living in Cuba who have relatives living in the United States, will likely find it easier to come to the US if they can take advantage of the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which permits Cuban foreign nationals in the US to sponsor relatives.