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Sweeping Changes To Cuba Travel Laws Take Effect Monday

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(Photo: YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo: YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Imagine the “wild” notion that Cuban families can take summer vacations in Miami, that Cuban doctors and athletes who left their jobs while on official trips abroad may return to Cuba for visits, and that any Cuban can leave the island for up to two years at a time.

Starting Monday, all that is possible, as sweeping changes to migration and travel policy take effect in Cuba.

Cuba, long criticized for keeping families apart and punishing those who try to leave the island illegally, has removed nearly all restrictions on travel by its citizens. It’s a move that could cause ripples well beyond the island of 11 million people, CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reports.

Gone is the reviled tarjeta blanca, the white card or exit visa that Cuba used to control who could leave the island. Gone is the notarized letter of invitation from a foreign host.

Now Cubans simply need a valid passport to travel — as long as they can get a visa from the country they intend to visit and a ticket for travel. Cuban authorities say they have set up 195 locations around the country where citizens may apply for their passports. Those who already hold passports will be required to recertify them under the reform.

But getting an entry visa allowing travel to another country and paying for a ticket are two big ifs.

“I was in Havana when the new policy was announced in October and people were very happy,’’ said Domingo Amuchastegui, a former Cuban intelligence analyst who lives in Miami. “But people thought it was going to be easy to get a visa and travel. Just getting the money for a ticket will be a monumental problem for many people.’’

Presumably many Cubans will seek visas to travel to the United States — and now even minor children will be allowed to travel as long as they have the authorization of parents or legal guardians.

“The United States welcomes any reforms that allow Cubans to depart from and return to their country freely,’’ said Will Ostick, spokesman for the U.S. State Department Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Read more in the full article.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

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