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Cuban government eases travel restrictions for citizens

by Take Two®

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A woman reads a copy of Communist Party's Granma newspaper which informs about a new immigration law, in Havana on October 16, 2012. Cubans will no longer require exit permits for foreign travel from January 14, the government said on Tuesday, the latest in a trickle of reforms enacted on the communist-ruled island. The government has also extended the period citizens are allowed to remain abroad from 11 to 24 months, with the new law set to enter into force 90 days from now, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Cuba has imposed stringent travel restrictions for a half-century but has failed to prevent thousands of its citizens from emigrating illegally each year, sometimes in dangerous sea voyages using rickety boats. ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images

It's been 50 years since the Cuban missile crisis and the communist regime remains in complete control.

In 1961, the government made it almost impossible for Cubans to leave their country, but starting in January, most Cubans will be able to travel abroad and return to the island freely.

The government announced this morning that it was lifting all exit requirements, the biggest change in Cuba's immigration policies since Fidel Castro came to power.

Cubans will not need an exit visa or a permission to travel letter, but they'll still need a travel visa for most countries.

This new policy will likely not apply to doctors, and some analysts fear they will extend it to other professionals whom the government does not want to leave. Cubans can be out of the country for 24 months, instead of the current 11 months, without losing rights and property, they can also seek an extension.

Jorge Duany is director of the Cuban Research Institute and teaches anthropology at Florida International University.

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