The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that every individual has the right to leave any country, including one’s own.
The government of Cuba, in perhaps the most highly anticipated of a series of policy changes initiated under President Raul Castro, is easing restrictions on its citizens who wish to travel overseas.
As of Jan. 14th, Cubans no longer have to apply for and be granted an exit permit to travel abroad or have a letter of invitation from a party overseas in order to leave the island. The United States welcomes any reforms that allow Cubans to depart from and return to their country freely.
In the past, the Cuban government scrutinized exit permit applications closely, and with application and notarization fees the costs were especially high in a nation where wages average about $20 a month. Now, Cubans need only make a one-time $100 application for a passport, renewable every two years. The new rules also increase from 11 to 24 months the amount of time Cubans may stay abroad without losing residency rights. That will make it easier to work or study abroad if they obtain the necessary visas from their host countries.
The new travel freedoms are not complete, however. The government could continue to restrict certain Cubans from leaving the island by denying passports for reasons of national security and public interest, to prevent the departure of officials and skilled professionals, and to impede the work of civil society activists.
The United States continues to support purposeful travel that enhances contact between the Cuban people and U.S. citizens. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that every individual has the right to leave any country, including one’s own, and the right to return there.
As the Cuban government moves to implement the new travel rules, Cuban citizens still need a valid U.S. visa or entry authorization to enter the U.S. We continue to encourage people to follow the visa process, however, and not to risk their lives by undertaking dangerous sea voyages.