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Exit visas are good for Cubans reuniting with American families

Being able to reunite with a family member after years away is always a special feeling and one that many immigrants have been able to experience after coming to the United States. By obtaining legal residency or citizenship, many individuals in Lancaster County and other parts of the United States have been able to use family-based immigration to bring adult children and siblings over, as well. One of the few groups that were unable to take advantage of this was the Cuban-Americans.

For years, Cuba has not allowed its citizens to emigrate or, in some cases, even leave the country. In a recent move by Cuban president Raul Castro, however, the country will make it easier for individuals to leave the island nation. Though, the country has reserved the right to deny exit visas to individuals for reasons of defense or national security. For the most part, however, this should make it easier for Cuban-Americans to bring their family members to the U.S.

In anticipation for the influx of Cuban visa applications, the federal government can issue a minimum of 20,000 visas to Cuban families. In the last year, however, nearly 43,000 visas were issued. Unlike adult children or siblings, immediate family members -- defined as a spouse, minor children or parents (for citizens over the age of 21) -- do not need to wait for family-based immigration visas. If the citizen's sponsorship application is approved, an immediate relative can come immediately.

There is still some concern, however, that this new rule will do very little to actually ease restrictions on individuals leaving the country. Many fear that the announcement is merely that, an announcement, and that it will not actually increase emigration from the country. Some see the move as an effort to increase public opinion about the Caribbean nation.

It will be interesting to see how this affects Cuban-Americans living in Pennsylvania.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Despite Immigration Policy Change, No Easy Path From Cuba To U.S.," Alicia A. Caldwell, Oct. 17, 2012

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