Scope and reasons for the immigration measures announced

The Cuban government has just announced important changes in immigration policy. Apart from the fact that these types of measures always require greater precision from the authorities and adjustments in their implementation, it is convenient to analyze what seems to be their main scope and the reasons that led to them being taken.

According to Ernesto Soberón, director of the Directorate of Consular Affairs and Attention to Cubans Resident Abroad (DACCRE) of MINREX, the measures consist of:

– The Cuban passport will be valid for 10 years for those over 16 years of age and 5 for minors; its cost at the consulates (in Cuba it is less) will be 180 and 140 dollars respectively and it will not be necessary to extend them during that time. Currently, the passport is valid for 6 years and needs to be extended twice during that period, which brings the cost to almost 800 dollars. This is a measure that has been demanded for a long time by emigrants, which entails a sense of justice and which will directly facilitate their trips and those of their relatives to the country.

– Equate the length of stay in Cuba of Cubans residing abroad and their foreign relatives (spouses and children). As there is a rule for foreigners visiting Cuba that they can only stay in the country for 90 days (extendable for another 90), this measure resolves that foreigners who are closest relatives of Cubans residing abroad can accompany them all the time they decide to remain in Cuba.

– The exception to Cubans who emigrated before 1971 from being able to travel to Cuba with a foreign passport is eliminated. It was a measure that at the time sought to facilitate the travel of these persons, due to the complexity of obtaining Cuban passports. Over time, it became a violation of Cuban laws, which only recognize Cuban citizenship within its territory for those born in Cuba and, moreover, now harms them, since they have to request a visa every time they travel to Cuba and can only stay in the country for the time established for foreigners. It is a measure that tends to unify the treatment of emigrants, even though they are divided into several categories, which complicates immigration policy to the extreme.

– The extension that allows Cubans to remain outside the country for more than 24 months without losing rights in Cuba is extended. It is established that Cubans cannot stay outside the country for more than 24 consecutive months and maintain their resident status. This requirement was temporarily eliminated during Covid-19 and this provision is now being extended, which could indicate the interest in definitively eliminating it in the future, since it no longer satisfies the reasons that gave rise to it and constitutes an unnecessary hindrance in relations of emigrants with their country.

If these measures deserve any criticism, it is the time that the government took to apply them, since it is obvious that they are beneficial for the country, to the extent that they advance in the sense, expressed by Soberón himself, of “facilitating the travel of Cubans abroad, their return to Cuba and increase their participation in the political, economic and social life of their country of origin,” an imperative need of today’s Cuba.

It is encouraging, when it comes to measuring the government’s willingness to direct the transformations that migration policy and its relations with emigration needs, that these measures, some of which affect, at least in the short term, the country’s income, are taken precisely at a time of crisis in the national economy.

It is an indicator that the migration issue has the priority it deserves and that emigration is being conceived as an integral part of the solution to national problems, even beyond the economic aspects that are related to it. The efforts of the country must be directed towards the integration of these people into national life, regardless of US policy to the contrary.