The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) announced on Tuesday a long awaited relief for holders of the Cuban passport. According to the ministry, its validity period will be extended from six to ten years, and the previously mandatory renewal every two years, which is subject to a fee, will be eliminated. As explained by Secretary of State Ernesto Soberón, director general for consular affairs and Cubans living abroad, the measures were taken “as part of the further strengthening of Cuba’s relations with its nationals abroad” and will take effect July 1.
Since Jan. 14, 2013, Cubans have been able to apply for a passport and leave Cuba without an exit permit. This was the first time that a passport and valid visa from the destination country became the only requirement for travel abroad in the socialist country. However, with a price of 100 CUC (~=USD) at the time, the Cuban passport was at times among the most expensive in the world. In addition, renewal was required every two years for 20 CUC. Most recently, prices were 2500 pesos for the passport and 500 pesos for the renewal. The total price for the six years was thus 3500 pesos (previously: 140 CUC). Abroad, renewal fees were disproportionately more expensive at, for example, 80 euros in Spain and $180 in the United States.
Although the price of the passport in relation to income was significantly reduced with the currency reform in 2021 due to the conversion at the rate of 24:1 (2500 pesos today correspond to about one, formerly six monthly salaries in the state sector), the high costs and the bureaucratic effort associated with the extension continued to be a bone of contention on the island. Accordingly, the extension of validity to ten years without renewal fees was received positively: “Finally! This measure was eagerly awaited by all Cubans,” commented one user on the state news portal “Cubadebate”. Within a few hours, the news had become the most commented news item there in recent weeks.
As Soberón announced, the cost of issuing the Cuban passport at consulates abroad will be capped at $/€180 for adults and $/€140 for children. The children’s passport is valid for five years. Cubans are allowed to stay abroad continuously for a maximum of two years without losing their citizenship, according to the current travel law. As of March 2020, this window has been repeatedly extended by another 24 months in light of Corona-related border closures. According to Soberón, the “automatic and free extension” will be maintained until further notice. Another measure is to “equalize the length of stay” of Cubans living abroad and their family members. One restriction was added: Cubans who emigrated before 1971 will have to obtain a Cuban passport to visit the island in the future.
Last October, the Cuban Foreign Ministry announced the drafting of a new citizenship law to be approved during the current legislature. “The new 2019 Constitution allows for dual and other citizenships, but this requires legislation,” Soberón said. Previously, there was consular news in a different direction, when last Nov. 1 the validity of the tourist visa was extended from 30 to 90 days.
This article was first published on Cuba Heute, a German-language news portal.