The Biden administration lifted Trump’s draconian Cold War-era border restrictions on Havana and claimed Tuesday that Washington would “fully resume” processing of immigrant visas beginning in 2023 at its embassy in Cuba in early 2023. After a protracted political review of the Trump administration since Joe Biden took office as president, the White House has managed to lift some of the severe travel and remittance restrictions on Cubans, and now intends to speed up visa processing in Havana to accommodate the stop illegal immigration at the southern border.
Washington also allowed charter and commercial flights to airports outside Havana and resumed general-license educational travel, but has yet to restore “people-to-people” educational travel. The Biden administration will continue to uphold human rights, the fair treatment of political prisoners, labor rights in Cuba and “empower the Cuban people to determine their own future,” an official had previously told a news conference while the administration implemented the policy change .
Eligible Cuban citizens to enter through legal channels
While witnessing a record number of Cuban citizens fleeing to the US-Mexico border, the US decided to issue immigrant visas to allow eligible citizens to enter the country legally, officials said. When the policy goes into effect, Cubans, who are generally sponsored by their US-based relatives, will no longer have to travel to Guyana for interviews with US consular officials. Instead, they are now asking about visas at the American Embassy in Havana.
Under the Trump administration, Cubans were required to be interviewed at the US embassy in Guyana after the former president halted all visa processing in Cuba to discourage migrants from entering the US and make visa processing more onerous. In 2020, Trump sanctioned Western Union’s partner company, Fincimex, citing the country’s military intervention, prompting the closure of all Western Union offices. Trump claimed that Cubans would need to find a civilian facility that could process remittances in order to expand electronic payments. However, the Biden administration lifted the $1,000-per-quarter cap on family remittances since taking office.
The US State Department, which manages consular offices, said in a statement that it would recruit and deploy more immigration officers to Cuba to expedite applications for the Cuban family reunification probation program [CFRP Program] which came into effect in 2007. The CFRP program allows certain eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to apply for parole for their family members in Cuba. If granted parole, these family members can come to the United States without waiting for their immigrant visas to become available. Once in the United States, beneficiaries of the CFRP program can apply for a work permit while awaiting application for lawful permanent resident status.
The US State Department said it was ready to restore “safe and orderly” migration from Cuba to the US. “These efforts are an important step in fulfilling the U.S. obligation under the U.S.-Cuba Migration Agreement to ensure that total legal migration from Cuba to the United States includes at least 20,000 Cubans, immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens not included.” the department said in its statement.