HAVANA, Sept. 21st The United States embassy in Havana announced this Wednesday “the total resumption” of the delivery of visas for immigrants in Cuba as of 2023, after being almost suspended for five years and when the island is experiencing a mass exodus.
As part of the expansion of regular pathways, in early 2023, the US Embassy in Havana will resume full processing of immigrant visas for the first time since 2017,” the diplomatic mission said in a statement.
Closed that year due to alleged sonic attacks against its diplomatic staff, the US consulate began issuing visas in Havana last May, but only slowly. Most applicants were required to travel to third countries such as Guayana or Colombia to complete this process.
The embassy stressed that the next “expansion of regular routes available to Cubans” who wish to travel to the United States seeks to “facilitate safe, orderly, humane and regular migration.”
The announcement comes as the country is facing its worst economic crisis in nearly 30 years due to the effects of the pandemic and US sanctions.
A large number of Cubans seeking to emigrate, especially through Central America, to reach the US border, but many also do so by sea trying to reach the US shores in precarious boats.
According to the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a record of almost 198,000 Cubans entered their country irregularly between October and August, the majority by land.
Another 5,700 were intercepted at sea since last October by the Coast Guard, half during the summer, when weather conditions favor the crossing of the Straits of Florida, which separates the two countries.
In its statement, the US embassy highlighted that the total resumption of the delivery of visas to immigrants, as well as that of the family reunification program last August, “constitute an important effort to fulfill” the commitment to grant “a minimum of 20,000” annual visas to Cubans, by virtue of the bilateral migratory agreements of 1994-1995.
In May, Cuba and the United States resumed their annual migration talks, after a four-year suspension during the Donald Trump administration.
Delegations from Washington and Havana met earlier this month to “increase bilateral cooperation” against irregular emigration, according to the Cuban Interior Ministry.