Travel Requirements Eased for Cuban Citizens

More Cubans may be able to leave their island nation in greater numbers as part of a series of highly anticipated reforms initiated under President Raul Castro.
A Huffington Post Latino report says observers predict it will result in only a modest initial increase in trips by Cubans, who must still get entry visas to travel to most countries, including the United States. And critics note that the law includes a “national security” clause that could be used to bar exits by government opponents, skilled workers and those privy to sensitive information.
But if applied evenhandedly, the opening would eliminate one of the biggest human rights criticisms leveled against a country that has long controlled who can leave, leading opponents to call Cuba an island prison.
“What’s important about it is people see this as a symbolic step of some importance more than a substantive one,” said Geoff Thale, a Cuba analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank, in an interview with the Huffington Post. “It symbolizes the end of the state intruding in the same way it used to in people’s regular lives.”
The article also states the measure greatly simplifies travel by scrapping the exit visa, and doing away with the requirement that Cubans provide a letter of invitation from someone in their country of destination. In the past nearly all exit visa applications were granted, and relatively quickly, but the costs were prohibitive to many in this country where wages average $20 a month. Between various application and notarization fees, it ran to $300 or more a trip, and some Cubans paid an additional $200 to $300 to people overseas for invitation letters.
Now, islanders need only make a one-time $100 application for a passport, renewable for $20 every two years.
 

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