Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cubans Now Allowed More Time Overseas

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cubans Now Allowed More Time Overseas

Article excerpt

HAVANA --

The door slammed shut behind Gloria 11 months after she left Cuba for Miami in mid-2011. Close to her dream of obtaining American residency, she ignored her government's deadline to return home and gave up her rights as a Cuban.

"It was a terrible moment," said Gloria, 40, a former shop assistant, by telephone from Miami, who asked that her full name not be used because she feared publicity might jeopardize her immigration status. "I didn't know whether things here would work out or not, but there was no going back."

Until now, that is. New Cuban migration rules that take effect today will allow islanders to spend more time overseas before they forfeit their Cuban residency, a concession that reflects the government's desire for closer ties with millions of Cubans who live abroad.

The rules, part of a package that loosens despised restrictions on the freedom to travel, could allow thousands of Cubans to shuttle between the United States and home in much the way that Mexican migrants do and could create a class of economic emigres worlds apart from the exiles who oppose closer ties.

Since the 1960s, the Cuban government has strictly controlled travel, and most Cubans who moved overseas without special permission have lost their rights and property. The many who do return for visits may stay on the island for only a month (or three, under the new regulations) and are not allowed to buy property or invest in private businesses there, though many do under the table.

The new rules -- among the most anticipated changes introduced by President Raul Castro -- eliminate expensive, time-consuming paperwork for most Cubans, who will need only a passport to travel. And in a surprising development, the government will also allow some medical professionals to go abroad, though it will continue to limit travel by people who work for strategic sectors, and, most likely, dissidents. …

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