Cuba eases foreign travel restrictions

Cuba eases foreign travel restrictions

HAVANA - Agence France-Presse
Cuba eases foreign travel restrictions

More than 30,000 Cubans immigrate legally each year. EPA photo

Cubans will no longer require an exit permit for foreign travel from Jan. 14, the foreign ministry said yesterday, the latest in a trickle of reforms enacted by the Castro administration.

The government has also extended the period citizens are allowed to remain abroad from 11 to 24 months, with the new law set to enter into force 90 days from now, the ministry said in a statement.

Cuba has imposed stringent travel restrictions for a half-century but has failed to prevent thousands of its citizens from emigrating illegally each year, sometimes in dangerous sea voyages using rickety boats.

To travel abroad legally, Cubans have had to provide letters of invitation and obtain permits valid for 30 days. The permits can be extended 10 times, after which the traveler must return to Cuba or lose the right to reside there.

The complicated bureaucratic process for getting the required visas and permits often includes different fees that make travel abroad unaffordable for many Cubans, whose average monthly salary is less than $20. Nevertheless, more than 30,000 Cubans immigrate legally each year.

Cuban President Raul Castro announced last year that the government was planning immigration reforms that would be introduced gradually.

 Since 1966, the U.S. government has granted Cubans automatic residence if they can reach the United States.