Monday, 19 November 2012

Cuba to End Exit Visa Requirement in January

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota
Now that bureaucratic barrier is on its way out. The Cuban government announced on Tuesday that it would terminate the exit visa requirement by Jan. 14, possibly letting many more Cubans depart for vacations, or forever, with only a passport and a visa from the country where they plan to go.

The new policy — promised by President Raúl Castro last year, and finally announced in the Communist Party newspaper — represents the latest significant step by the Cuban government to answer demands for change from Cubans, without relinquishing control.

Like some recent economic openings in Cuba, it allows the government to carefully calibrate the flow of change.

Even Cubans with passports will need to have them renewed, and the law says that applicants can be prevented from leaving for several reasons, including “national security”; enough, experts say, to keep dissidents from traveling.

Cuba’s doctors, scientists and other professionals, who have long faced tight restrictions on movement, might be held back as well because the new policy includes a caveat allowing the government to limit departures to “preserve the human capital created by the Revolution.”

And yet, the new migration law also gives Cubans latitude to stay abroad longer, letting them remain outside the country for two years, and possibly longer, before losing their rights to property and benefits like health care — an increase from 11 months under the current policy.

Analysts say the government is encouraging a larger class of Cubans to travel, partly so that they can earn money elsewhere and return, injecting capital into the island’s moribund economy. The benefits of such an arrangement are already clear: remittances to the island have grown to an estimated $2.3 billion a year, from $1 billion in 2004.

But whether the new law will create a temporary or permanent mass exodus, Cubans and experts say, will be determined by how many people have the means and passports to leave, and which countries welcome them.

“The decision to lift the exit visa is a significant one for several reasons, although like most of the new reforms, it depends a great deal on how it is implemented,” said Robert Pastor, professor of international relations at American University. “Nonetheless, by removing a state barrier to leave, this reform could lead to a large outflow — many of whom will eventually want to come to the United States — or it could begin to allow a circular flow of people that could enhance the economic opening of the island.”

The Cuban government’s earlier steps toward a market economy have mostly fallen short of expectations. There are now hundreds of thousands of small business owners on the island of 11 million people, but not nearly the numbers the government initially said it needed to cut back on the nation’s bloated public payrolls.

Experts say fears of instability have often hampered the push for a rapid economic opening, leading celebrated new laws — allowing for property sales and entrepreneurship, for example — to be later larded with restrictions and taxes.

Cubans in Havana and Miami say they are convinced the same dynamic will apply to travel. They mostly greeted the end of the exit visa after 51 years with their usual stance of “we’ll see.”

On Tuesday, there were no long lines at the passport office in Havana or at foreign embassies, and many Cubans said they still faced hurdles to a legal departure.

“It’s all very good,” said Laydis, 30, an employee at a bank in Havana who gave only one name to avoid government reprisals. “But which interesting country is going to give me a visa?”

Her colleague Maricel, 44, who is eligible for a Spanish passport because her grandparents were from Spain, identified another problem. “Sure, I can go,” she said, “but where am I going to get the money?”

After all, the new law, despite cutting a bureaucratic hurdle, might not mean lower costs to leaving: Yoani Sánchez, the well-known Cuban blogger whose exit visa requests have been repeatedly denied, said on Twitter that the cost of a Cuban passport will nearly double, to just over $100.

An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Havana, and Jacqui Goddard from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

View the original article here

No comments:

Post a Comment