HAVANA – The Cuban government announced Tuesday that it will no longer require islanders to apply for an exit visa, eliminating a much-loathed bureaucratic procedure that has been a major impediment for many seeking to travel overseas.
A notice published in Communist Party newspaper Granma said Cubans will also no longer have to present a letter of invitation to travel abroad when the rule change takes effect Jan. 13. Beginning on that date, islanders will only have to show their passport and a visa from the country they are traveling to.
"As part of the work under way to update the current migratory policy and adjust it to the conditions of the present and the foreseeable future, the Cuban government, in exercise of its sovereignty, has decided to eliminate the procedure of the exit visa for travel to the exterior," the notice read.
The new change, however, does not mean that anyone wanting to travel will get a passport.
"The ordinary passport will be issued to the Cuban citizens who meet the requirements of the Migration Law," which is being modified, according to the report in Granma.
The measure also extends to 24 months the amount of time Cubans can remain abroad, and they can request an extension when that runs out. Currently, Cubans lose residency and other rights after 11 months.
Still, the notice said Cuba plans to put limits on travel within unspecified sectors.
Doctors, members of the military and others considered valuable parts of society currently face restrictions on travel to combat the so-called brain drain.
"The update to the migratory policy takes into account the right of the revolutionary State to defend itself from the interventionist plans of the U.S. government and its allies," the note said. "Therefore, measures will remain to preserve the human capital created by the Revolution in the face of the theft of talent applied by the powerful."
The move is part of the reforms that President Raul Castro promised when he took office in 2008.
At the time, he pledged to do away with unnecessary restrictions. And that year, he lifted prohibitions on Cubans staying in hotels and buying mobile phones.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.
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