Cuba's Looser Travel Requirements Still Very Restrictive

Cuba excited the world and Cubans by announcing last month that government-issued exit visa requirements were going to be dropped.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Cuban Yoani Sanchez says it ain't a golden age for free travel yet. The announced end of the "white card" program by which official permission is required to leave is just being recreated under a new name.


Health care professionals noticed that they were still required to obtain permission to travel. The Cuban government defends travel restrictions for doctors and scientists with the argument that the "brain drain" could take many of them to countries that pay better salaries. Thus, in the newly released law, state control is actually strengthened over the travel of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even laboratory workers.

The fine print of Decree Law 302 doesn't stop there. The restrictions on leaving are even more severe for other professionals such as teachers and professors. Frightened by the growing loss of personnel in the field of education, Cuban leaders are trying to put a brake on escapes from the classroom. And they are doing it in the way it has always been done, not by paying better salaries or improving working conditions, but by force.

One of the perverse incentives unleashed by this strategy is expected to be enrollment declines for professional, legal, and engineering studies. If students know ahead of time that once they graduate in certain specialties it will be very difficult for them to travel, they will avoid getting degrees in them. A measure intended to fight "brain drain" could generate a decrease in the numbers who aspire to higher education....

As for the infamous White Card, it's true that Cubans will no longer need an exit permit to travel, but they will still need permission to possess a passport. So, when citizens apply to get this document, they will find out if they are among those who are allowed to cross the national borders or if, on the contrary, they are among the group condemned not to leave. Where once we had to wait for the White Card, now the little blue 32-page pamphlet will have the final word. The "permission to leave" had changed its color and name, but still stands.

Reason on Cuba. Just as Cuba ought to let its citizens freely leave, America ought to let its citizens, and its citizens money and business, freely go to Cuba. That is, end the embargo now! A free nation lets its citizens go and do business where the citizens want to.

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    "Hurry up and visit Cuba, before KKKapitalism comes along and wrecks it."

    I know people who say this. And mean it. Because beggars in run-down shanties are picturesque and noble. They have free health care, and their babies never die.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Come on, no alt text even on this pic?

    "What I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.... after I get my exit visa."

  • ||

    alt-text: Asswipe.


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