Travel to and from Cuba took a progressive turn this week as restrictions dating back a half-century were lifted for Cubans, allowing them to leave the island without going through a time-consuming process. It’s good news for Cubans longing to travel freely in and out of their country and a step in the right direction for Americans, dreaming of a visit to Cuba.
Starting in January, Cubans will no longer need an exit visa permitting departure and a letter of invitation from someone in the destination country. Those restrictions were imposed in 1961 after the Cuban Revolution that occurred between 1953 and 1959, placing Fidel Castro in power. Now, most Cubans will only need their passports, national identity cards and a visa (if needed) from the country they will visit.It’s a move viewed as a next step to allowing free travel to and from Cuba for Americans eager to visit the island. Right now, travel is restricted via the U.S. government’s 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act. Under that act, the restriction is not on travel but on the spending of money in Cuba.
That act effectively equates to a travel ban because under normal circumstances a visitor would spend on accommodations, food and other necessities.
“Like earlier decisions legalizing the personal sales of homes and cars, this is another step in the direction of loosening restrictions and opening up Cuban society,” said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a Washington group opposed to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, in a Reuters report.
Back in April 2011, Gadling reported on new guidelines that allowed journalists plus religious and educational groups to travel to Cuba just about whenever they wanted to. Those rules also allowed Americans to send up to $2,000 annually to Cuba, limited to $500 per quarter (up from $300). Progress is being made.
Still, to get to Cuba, Americans must look to an exception to the rule on spending money in Cuba, allowed by licenses issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.
Want to go to Cuba?
Cuba Travel Services, Cubalinda and a few other travel agencies specialize in travel to and from Cuba, operate direct flights between the United States and Cuba and can assist licensed travelers with all their travel accommodations.
[Photo Credit: Flickr user Ed Yourdon]