Cuba Lifts Exit Visa Requirement, Allowing Residents to Travel Abroad with Limited Restrictions

Restrictions that have kept Cuban islanders landlocked for half a century have been mostly lifted according to a foreign ministry statement in the Central Committee's official newspaper, Granma.

"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 statement reads, in part.

Exit visas, which were required along with a letter of invitation in order to travel abroad, made leaving the country impossible for most Cubans, many of whom simply couldn't afford to pay the associated fees.

Additionally, the visa's time limit of 30 days could only be extended 10 times before a resident's citizenship benefits — free health care, education, and social security — were revoked. Under the new policy, residents will be allowed to remain abroad for 24 months, and the time limit can be extended.

Changes to the law are set to go into effect on January 14th.

Some restrictions will remain in place, particularly for Cuba's educated set, in order to minimize brain drain. "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 ministry said in its statement.

Per the United States' "wet feet, dry feet policy," any Cuban who manages to make it to US shores will be allowed to remain.

[photo via AP]