HAVANA (CBSMiami) — Cuba will scrap broad travel restrictions starting in January, easing most Cubans’ exit and return, state media said on Tuesday in the communist island’s first major immigration reform in half a century.

The Cuban government imposed restrictions on travel starting in 1961 to try to stop a mass migration of people fleeing after the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power.

The government will lift the much reviled requirements to obtain an exit visa and letter of invitation and allow Cubans to simply show a passport and a visa from the country they’re travelling to if needed, the Communist Party newspaper Granma said.

“The Cuban government, in full function of its sovereignty, has decided to eliminate the procedure of soliciting the Permission to Exit for trips outside the country and to make ineffective the requirement for a Letter of Invitation. Starting on the 14th of January 2013, a current passport will be the only requirement and a visa for the destination country if required,” the anchor read on state-run television.

The changes are part of work “to update the current migratory policy adjusting it to prevailing conditions in the present and foreseeable future,” the paper said.

The statement added: “Certain measures will be maintained to preserve human capital created by the Revolution from the theft of talents practiced by the powerful nations.”

The travel changes will take effect starting Jan. 14, Granma said.

It is the most significant advance this year in President Raul Castro’s five-year plan of reform that has already seen the legalization of home and car sales and a big increase in the number of Cubans owning private businesses.

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