The U.S. government will extend the validity of the non-immigrant visas it awards to Cuban travelers from six months to five years, with the possibility of entering and exiting the country multiple times, the State Department said Wednesday.
"The State Department is changing the maximum validity of visitor visas for family and other personal non-immigrant travel from six months, as it is currently - six months single entry to five years multiple entries for qualified Cuban nationals," Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters.
The move is forecast to reduce the financial burden for Cubans who want to request a B2 visa, given that they will only have to pay the fee to obtain the permit once.
"Increasing the validity (term) of the visas eliminates the bureaucratic and financial burden for Cuban travelers, who in the past had to come back again in person to request the visa each time they wanted to travel to the United States," another State Department spokesman, Patric Ventrell, told Efe.
"The aim is also to reduce the waiting times" at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Ventrell added.
The change "is part of our broader policy to increase people-to-people ties between Americans and Cubans, to increase communications with the Cuban people, to promote openness," Harf said.
"The (Obama) Administration, the Secretary (John Kerry) certainly believes that these measures, in addition to others, increases people-to-people flow that's really key to promoting civil society, to promoting democratization on the island," she said.
The announcement comes shortly after Cuban and U.S. officials resumed the bilateral dialogue on immigration, which had been stalled since January 2011, at a July 17 meeting in Washington.
Nevertheless, Harf said she did not know whether this issue was discussed during that meeting. EFE