Cubans Will Be Able to Leave the Island Without a Permit for First Time in 51 Years

Cuba lifts exit visa ban.

ByABC News
October 16, 2012, 10:17 AM

Oct. 16, 2012— -- Cuba will no longer ask its citizens to secure exit permits when they want to travel outside the Communist island.

The state-run newspaper Granma, reported on Tuesday that this change in regulations is part of a broader effort to "update" the island's migration policy and "adjust it to prevailing conditions."

Currently, Cuba is the only country in Latin America where local residents need a special permit to travel abroad. The process is run by the Ministry of the Interior and has been used in the past to stop political dissidents or highly-skilled individuals from leaving the country.

Granma reported that the travel permit requirement will end on January 13th 2013. After that date, Cubans who wish to travel abroad will simply have to show up at the airport with a valid passport, just like people in most countries in the world.

The government of Cuba will also allow its citizens living abroad to stay away from the country for up to 24 months, with an option to extend their stay abroad, by applying for an extension at the nearest Cuban embassy.

Currently, Cubans are only allowed to stay away from their country for 11 months. If they exceed that period, they lose their residency in Cuba, and must forfeit health and education benefits.

According to Granma, these reforms might come with a caveat.

"Measures aimed at preserving the human capital created by the Revolution from the theft of talents practiced by the powerful nations shall remain in force," the newspaper said.

Yoani Sánchez, the dissident blogger who has been denied permission to leave Cuba on 20 separate occasions in the past five years, celebrated the new changes on her Twitter account. "The first thing I thought when I head of the new Migration Law "Fidelism is turning to shreds, its falling apart," she tweeted in Spanish.

Sánchez uploaded the new law document online and reports that under the reform, the price to obtain a Cuban passport will go up from 55 Cuban pesos to 100 Cuban pesos ($110 US dollars.) The average Cuban salary, Sáchez tweeted, is 20 Cuban pesos a month.

The reform comes at a time of high speculation about the fragile state of Castro's health.