Cuba is easing travel restrictions for Cubans who want to visit other countries, in a move that makes the country slightly more open for travelers, but creates the risk of an exodus of people seeking better opportunities elsewhere. Under the new rules that take effect next January, Cuban citizens who wish to visit another country only need a valid passport and a entry visa to the nation they want to travel to. Currently they need to buy an exit permit and produce a letter of invitation from a resident of the other country. The fees associated with those documents run into the hundreds of dollars, if the government even agrees to grant permission to buy them.
The hope behind the new reforms is that Cubans traveling abroad will bring back money and skills that they've earned elsewhere. However, there are still concerns about "brain drain" as there is a risk of highly-skilled individuals and college students leaving the country and never coming back. People in certain industries, like doctors, will still face difficulties getting passports as Cuba still wants to keep its best people at home.
Last year, the United States loosened its restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba, but it appears to have had little effect on the number of visitors. Most of the economic sanctions that have been in place for decades remain in effect and and Cubans who reach American soil are still granted automatic residency, leaving the two nations at odds. The so-called "people-to-people" transfers had not improved relations or weakened the grip that the Castro regime (now led by Fidel's brother, Ramon) holds over its people.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.