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Cuba announces immigration policy change

After decades of enforcing strict travel restrictions on its citizens, the Cuban government announced this week that it will be implementing new rules to make it easier for people to come and go from the island.

Of course, Cubans who wish to relocate or travel to the United States will still have to abide by U.S. immigration law, and the wait time for a visa is currently years long. Almost all other Latin American countries, including Mexico, require Cubans to obtain an entrance visa as well.

However, the U.S. government's "Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program," which allows Cuban immigrants living in the United States to sponsor relatives to join them, will likely be more achievable following Cuba's policy change, experts say.

Under the program, which is mean to reunite Cuban families, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can also decide to let Cuban relatives into the country even if a regular visa is not available.

Still, some are skeptical that the Communist nation is really changing its ways as there will still be many limitations on obtaining visas to leave. A Florida lawmaker who was born in Cuba called the reforms "desperate attempts to fool the world into thinking that Cuba is changing."

For years, Cuban citizens desperate to flee the island have risked their lives by taking rafts across the Straits of Florida. In the 1990s, the United States agreed to return all would-be immigrants who were caught at sea back to Cuba, while those who made it to shore were allowed to stay.

Cuba's exit visa policy change is set to go into effect in January.

Source: Associated Press, "Despite Immigration Policy Change, No Easy Path From Cuba To U.S.," Alicia A. Caldwell, Oct. 17, 2012

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