Cuba's Modified Migration Policy Is Transparent and Advantageous

News from Cuba | Friday, 2 November 2012

from Juventud Rebelde

The Cuban government has promulgated a set of new measures, effective from January 14, aimed at modifying Cuba’s migration policies by simplifying the regulations for travel, in an effort to keep up with the country’s changing reality and to also normalize travel procedures for Cuban emigrants wishing to visit the island.

In the days following the announcement of the new policies many citizens have visited Immigration and Nationality Offices across the country inquiring about the changes.

Overall, the new measures are aimed at easing restrictions on Cuban citizens seeking to engage in short or long term travel abroad by reducing unnecessary red tape. Another priority is normalizing relations between Cuban emigrants and their homeland by lifting long-standing travel prohibitions on Cubans who have illegally left the country.

For many years, the US government and the media has manipulated and politicized the issue of Cuban emigration to promote illegality, to steal our talent and to create internal chaos in Cuba.

Most Cubans welcome the new measures, which come into force on January 14, 2013, with enthusiasm, convinced that they are a step forward in changing things for good in the best interest of the Cuban people and government.

Based on transparency, Cuban authorities have begun a media campaign to announce the new changes and to provide as much details and information as possible to the population on Decree-Law 302 amending the Cuban Migration Act (Law 1312), as well as on complementary decrees and regulations relevant to the issue.

Many doubts and controversy have emerged concerning the reforms. Among the most frequently asked questions is the problem of whether Cuban citizens living abroad can retain or lose their citizenship after the 24-month term allowed under the new provisions runs out.

In this regard, legislation stipulates that emigrating does not cause Cubans to automatically lose citizenship. Cubans will maintain their citizenship as long as they do not perpetrate any crimes punishable by law, including actions that go against the integrity and the national security of Cuba.

The foundation of this assertion, which is fully endorsed by the Cuban Constitution, has deeply rooted historical causes, namely that throughout history Cubans abroad have contributed to the cause of Cuban independence.

This is also why the Cuban Constitution does not recognize dual citizenship. Like many other countries around the world, Cuban nationality rules are based on the principle that all persons are entitled to possess one nationality, but one nationality only. This does not mean a Cuban citizen cannot acquire another country’s citizenship. In such cases, however, it is the Cuban citizenship which is legitimate while being in Cuba, which explains why Cuban-born people need a Cuban-issued passport in order to travel to the island.

Many people also worried that if, for whatever reason, they stayed out of the country for more than 2 years, they would be considered emigrants.

The new legislation dictates Cuban people are entitled to travel abroad for varying reasons, namely tourist visits, holiday trips, work commitments or humanitarian reasons.

Potential travellers will be required to get a passport, parental authorization in the case of minors, and to also be compliant with the conditions stipulated in Article 25 of Decree-Law 302.

In addition, they will be required to get an entry visa from the country they are travelling to, and meet the travel requirements specific to that country.

The measure also extends the amount of time Cubans can remain abroad up to 24 months, and they can request an extension grounded on substantial reasons when that runs out.

The new law also provides for requesting permission to live abroad for an unspecified period of time if, for instance, a Cuban is legally married to or has a relationship with a foreign citizen; if he/she has a family situation that compels him/her to stay or needs to complete medical treatment exceeding 24 months.

Couples who are not legally married must present corroborating evidence that they have a bona fine relationship.

A Cuban citizen is considered to have permanently emigrated when he/she travels abroad on personal business and overstays the 24 month time limit, without having requested legal authorization; or when he/she settles abroad in violation of the migratory laws.

To sum up, whenever a Cuban citizen travels abroad any of following scenarios is possible:

-the citizen return to Cuba before 24 months;

- the citizen returns to Cuba upon completion of the 24 month term;

-the citizen requests permission to extend his/her stay abroad;

-the citizen requests permission to reside abroad for an unspecified period of time.

Citizens not fitting under any of these categories shall be considered emigrants.

On the more positive side, among the many benefits that go with the adjustments to the Cuban migration policy is the elimination of bureaucratic procedures on travel for Cubans going abroad. It means that Cuban travellers are free to come and go at will without paperwork as long as they do it within the 24 month period.

The newly issued resolution 343 of the Ministry of Finances and Prices establishes the new cost of an ordinary passport at $100, payable in CUC or Cuban peso according to the situation.

Those travelling on personal business will pay for their passports in CUC; while passports issued on behalf of state institutions will be payable in Cuban pesos.

Passports are valid for a period of 2 years and renewable every two years to complete a full term of 6 years. Citizens wishing to renew a passport will have to pay $20 CUC; and $150 CUC in case they request a permit to reside abroad.

The rise in the cost of passports has led many people to erroneously think travel formalities have become more expensive. Quite the opposite in fact, given that the Invitation Letter priced at $140 and the Travel Permit priced at $150 CUC, documents formerly requested of a Cuban citizen seeking to travel overseas, will be eliminated from January onward.

The new measure also allows for saving money on consular taxes, given that citizens applying for an extension will only begin paying taxes after the 24 month term runs out. It should be borne in mind that taxes are subject to change and that their application is country-specific.

Much has been also said about when and under what conditions Cubans who illegally left the country following the 1994 migration accord can return to Cuba. This is also the case of healthcare workers and high-performance athletes on internationalist missions who did not return.

In all cases permission to return will be granted provided that it’s been 8 years since they left the country. Citizens who left Cuba through the US naval base in Guantanamo, however, are excluded from this treatment on compelling reasons of national security.

One of the most attention-grabbing provisions, released under Decree 306 of the Council of Ministers, is the one that advocates people performing vital activities within society be subject to differentiated process to travel abroad. This group includes high-ranking officials, athletes and professionals linked to national priority areas.

In this regard, designated staff, across all Cuban state entities, have been working hard since October 16 on identifying work positions that fit within these special categories and in preparing reports for the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. Following this stage, the labour ministry will review proposals and submit within a period of 40 working days its final assessment to the Council of Ministers for approval.

Contrary to what many believe, the measure does not prevent those considered valuable parts of society from their right to travel abroad; but it does require them to undergo differentiated procedures in order to leave the country. This provision is key to combating the brain drain, to preserving the human capital created by the Revolution and to ensuring Cuba’s continued progress in the social, economic and scientific fields by keeping qualified labour in the country.

Managerial staff at Cuban workplaces will be responsible for defining these categories and for informing workers whether they are occupying a vital position, or if they are about to, which is another proof of the transparency and honesty with which Cuban authorities are implementing the new set of transformations.

Far from being improvised or last minute, the new legislation is solidly grounded in the rapidly changing economic and social reality of Cuba. There’s still plenty of room for improvement; but the new policy is a promising start towards enhancing long-awaited travel opportunities for both Cubans on the island and those abroad.

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