Cuba announced Tuesday the elimination of exit permits for taking trips abroad and will annul the requirement for a letter of invitation as part of the longed-for and long-awaited travel reform that will take effect Jan. 14, 2013.

The official Web site Cubadebate and the online edition of the daily Granma reported this Tuesday the reform of existing travel policy in order to "adjust it to present conditions and those of the foreseeable future."

"The Cuban government, in exercising its sovereignty, has decided to eliminate the procedure of exit-permit applications for trips abroad and to annul the requirement for a letter of invitation," the note published by the online media said.

This means that beginning Jan. 14, 2013, "all that will be required is the presentation of a valid and duly renewed passport and the visa of the destination country."

The note said that "eligible for said passport will be Cuban citizens who fulfill the requirements established in the (newly reformed) Migration Law."

Cuba's travel reform also allows island residents going abroad for personal reasons to remain outside the country for up to 24 months from the time of departure.

With this decision, the Raul Castro government expands its reforms and further eliminates prohibitions that have been in force for decades.

Travel reform has long been desired by Cubans who for years have been affected by a combination of restrictive regulations and tedious, costly processes to be able to visit other countries.

The new easing of travel restrictions and red tape is subject to certain exceptions, however.

Special treatment will be maintained for trips abroad by top officials, health and education professionals and athletes who are "vital" to the country, since each of these will require specific authorization.

Nor will a passport be issued to Cubans who must still complete their military service, nor in cases where "reasons of defense and national security advise against it."

At the same time, the daily Granma said in an editorial Tuesday that Cuba is obliged to maintain measures to defend itself from a "brain drain."

Meanwhile the Cuban blogger and critic Yoani Sanchez said excitedly on Tuesday that if she manages to leave Cuba once the migration reform goes into effect, she will certainly return.

"Starting Jan. 14, 2013 the exit permit will be eliminated. The island's barred doors will be opened? Hurraaaaaaa!!!! :-)" is how the famed author of the "Generacion Y" blog greeted the news about travel reform on the social network Twitter.

At the same time she insisted that her interest was in leaving and then returning: "don't even think you're going to be rid of my questions, my tweets, my opinions from #Cuba," she warned.

Cuba's official gazette published this Tuesday the decree of the Council of State that reforms the current Migration Law. EFE