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U.S. to keep immigration laws the same in face of Cuba's change

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While U.S. immigration law is a broad, ponderous subject, it contains some rather narrow provisions. For example, Cuban citizens who come to the U.S. are eligible to become permanent residents as long as they wait one year before applying. This policy is expected to get more attention now that Cuba has changed its own rules regarding when its citizens may leave the country.

For a long time, the Cuban government has placed restraints on the ability of its citizens to travel abroad. One of those restraints mandated that citizens obtain a "travel permit," which was granted and denied arbitrarily. But this permit will no longer be required for temporary travel outside of Cuba. Although this change could potentially result in a rise of emigration from Cuba, U.S. officials in Washington, D.C. declared that they had no plans to change the permanent resident policy for Cuban citizens who come to the U.S.

Under current law, Cuban citizens who wish to seek permanent residency must receive a U.S. travel visa. That requirement could be used to stem the potential influx of Cuban émigrés if U.S. immigration officials conclude that too many people are seeking permanent residency. During the last fiscal year, Cubans received approximately 14,000 tourist visas.

Havana's disposal of the travel permit accompanies the loosening of other restraints. Cubans will no longer need to produce an invitation from a foreign institution or person in order to leave the country. In addition, Cubans can remain abroad for two years, which is more than twice the formerly permitted length of time.

Nevertheless, some impediments remain. Cuba can deny its citizens passports if it deems that doing so is in the public interest. Moreover, professionals will be subject to tighter travel regulations to prevent the exodus of human capital from the island nation.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Cuba lifts 'exit visa' requirement for its citizens," Richard Fausset, Oct. 16, 2012

• U.S. green cards can help reunite families. To learn more about the process and the applicable criteria, please visit our Washington, D.C. permanent residency page.

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