The term for non-immigrant visas for Cuban travelers has been extended from six months to five years. The extension came this summer after officials from the U.S. and Cuba resumed stalled migration discussions. The change also means that Cubans who have been approved for B-2 visas for family visits or personal travel will be allowed multiple entries into the U.S., rather than reapplying in person each time they seek to travel to the United States. B-1 business visas and B-1/B-2 combination visas will continue to be valid for six months with a single entry, however.
The visa extension is expected to remove procedural and financial burdens on Cuban travelers, and decrease wait times for visa interviews at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, according to State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
U.S. and Cuban officials are supposed to engage in migration discussions every six months, but prior to the July 17th meeting, the two countries had not participated in discussions since January 2011 due to disagreements on issues such as the imprisonment of a U.S. government subcontractor who was sentenced to 15 years in Cuba.
Some experts see the resumption of talks in mid-July, along with renewed discussions about reestablishing direct mail service, as the “signs of baby steps” toward more peaceful relations between the two counties.
On its part, Cuba has reformed also its own migratory rules, putting an end to an exit visa requirement in January 2013 that had previously been imposed on all Cubans. Although Cuban residents can still be denied passports in some cases, such as for pending legal cases against them, a number of the country’s most outspoken dissidents have been allowed to travel overseas since the reform.
Although State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrall was careful to reiterate that the visa changes did not amount to significant policy changes toward Cuba, he did say that “these measures, in addition to others, will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; and enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.”
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