Cuba Softens Travel Restrictions With A Big Catch

Oct 16, 2012

Today the Cuban government announced that Cubans will no longer need an exit visa from the state in order to leave the country for travel, etc. However, the government simultaneously cracked down on travel for high skilled workers.

As of January 14, 2012, Cubans will only need a visa from the country they are traveling to in order to leave the country. 

According to Cuba's state paper, "It has also been decided that Cuban residents travelling overseas on private affairs will be permitted to remain there for a period of twenty-four months, counting from the date of departure. For a longer stay, they will be required to obtain the corresponding evidence of extension of stay from a Cuban consulate."

In the past, obtaining an exit visa was a costly and time-consuming process for Cubans, any many would jump through the hoops only to be denied the document.  But now it appears that it will be somewhat easier.

For some, that is.

The Washington Post reported that there was a big catch to the changes, which will actually make it harder for higher skilled workers to leave.

What this means: Engineers, scientists, doctors, athletes, performers, pilots, military officers and others who have been educated by the state and are considered too valuable to lose will still be required to get exit visas.

The Cuban government has long complained about U.S. immigration policies that encourage a brain drain from Cuba — granting immediate residency, work permits and a quick path to U.S. citizenship to any Cuban who makes it to the shores of the United States, under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. (Cubans intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba, but those who make it to land are granted asylum.)

Doctors, in particular, have been scooped up by the U.S. in the past several years.