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Havana.  March 12, 2013

U.S. Interests Section information on consular procedures for travel to the United States
• Following the updating of the Cuban Migration and Travel Policy, U.S. officials confirm their regulations remain unchanged

Sergio Alejandro Gómez & Dalia González Delgado

THE U.S. Interests Section (USIS) in Havana recently requested an interview with Granma in order to detail requirements and regulations related to visa applications to the United States, following Cuba’s updating of its migration and travel policy. The meeting, at the Granma newspaper offices, was attended by Consul General Timothy Roche; Lynn Roche, director of the Press and Culture Office; and Patricia Bermúdez, an official from the Visa Information Department.

 

Timothy Roche
Timothy Roche,
USIS Consul General.
(Photo: Vladimir Molina)

The Consul General stated that his government positively welcomes the changes to the Migration Law. However, he clarified that, on the part of the United States, migratory regulations have not changed in any aspect and requisites for obtaining a temporary or immigrant visa remain the same.

 

He explained that in order to travel to the United States it is still necessary to apply for a permit which must be approved by a consular official in an interview. Roche stressed that strict compliance with all the steps established to obtain a visa is essential. (See box).

 

Currently, he added, the waiting time for a visa appointment in USIS is 18 months, while the period required to process this documentation once the interview has taken place is variable. For those applying for non-immigrant visa, it is 2-3 days, although in some cases a longer administrative processing period is needed, which could take up to 90 days.

 

For persons applying for immigrant visas, the waiting period to collect travel documents is approximately 30 days after being interviewed, although in particular cases it may take 120 days or more.

 

"In the case of tourist visas, our laws are very rigorous and the person traveling has to show that he or she has strong ties in Cuba, that he or she is not going to remain in the U.S. to work," the Consul emphasized.

 

United States legislation requires "consular officials to assume that all applicants for temporary visas are potential immigrants," he commented.

 

The Consul General acknowledged that it is "very difficult" for a young person to obtain the necessary permits for this type of travel.

 

"Many of them go in search of economic opportunities abroad, while retired adults have stronger ties here and generally return to their country."

 

However, figures published by the Cuban government demonstrate the opposite: the majority of those who travel do return home. From the year 2000 to August 31, 2012, a total of 941,953 Cubans traveled abroad for personal reasons, of whom a total of 120,705 – barely 12.8% – did not return.

 

According to figures provided by U.S. officials, between October 2011 and September 2012 the USIS issued approximately 10,000 temporary visas. Roche did not discount the possibility that the number of visas will increase during this fiscal year as a result of increased applications in the new context of the Cuban migration and travel policy.

 

"In the case of immigrants or persons applying for leave to remain, there is a range of reasons why a visa might be denied; for example, a lack of financial resources on the part of family members in the United States. We also see many cases of marriage and divorce for migration purposes, or there may be public health or national security reasons for refusing a visa."

 

When a person is refused a visa, he noted, the decision cannot be appealed although it is not of a permanent nature. In this context, he recommended "waiting for at least a year after the date of the last refusal before reapplying for a non-immigrant visa."

 

Asked whether these procedures are the same for all countries, Roche explained that residents in some developed countries, such as those of the European Union, Canada or Japan, do not even require a visa. But "in a very poor country, in Africa, or some of the less developed countries of Latin America, regrettably, the refusal rate is higher."

 

However, the Consul General had no comment as to why, as opposed to persons from anywhere else in the world, Cubans are allowed entry without visas if they succeed in reaching U.S. territory by any means, under the "dry foot-wet foot" policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act, while other potential immigrants, many of them from Latin America, are pursued and expelled from the country.

 

Similarly, when asked about the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, in operation since 2006, and which stimulates the desertion of Cuban collaborators in third countries through a sophisticated brain-drain system, not only affecting Cubans but all those countries in which they are working, Roche replied: "I do not have information about that program, because it is not managed here in Havana."

 

The Consul General insisted that the United States' intention is "to promote legal visits and legal, orderly and safe migration," but he avoided expressing an opinion on his government's migration policy toward Cuba, which has provoked painful losses of human life and whose sole aim is to promote subversion and destabilization in the country, justify anti-Cuban propaganda and distort our reality.

 

"We do not have any comments on these aspects", he concluded.

 

Before ending the interview, USIS officials alerted Cuban citizens and their families in the United States to the existence in that country of fraudulent companies offering appointments and guaranteed visas, and stressed that the only way of obtaining these permits is via the steps established by the Interests Section in Havana.

 

Given their importance to those concerned, Granma outlines below the key steps for obtaining a U.S. visa:

 Tourist or Temporary Visit Visas

 1. Fill in the application form available at http://havana.usint.gov

It is important to complete the form and send it, as if it is not correctly filled in before the day of the interview, the interview will be cancelled and the appointment lost.

 

2. The second step is for your contact in the United States to call 1-866-374-1769, the Call Center, to schedule an appointment.

 

3. Attend the appointment with a current passport, one 50x50mm photo, 160 CUC, and the visa application confirmation sheet. It is advisable to arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled appointment time, and no electronic objects or accompanying visitors are allowed in, except in the case of disabled persons or minors.

 Permanent Immigration visas

 If you wish to live in the United States you need to have a family member who is either an American citizen or a permanent resident in that country. They must submit a completed visa application form to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. American citizens may apply for family reunification on behalf of a spouse, parents, siblings and children (whether these are single or married). Permanent residents in the United States have the possibility of applying for a spouse or unmarried children to join them.
 

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