The U.S. Embassy in Cuba posted a bomb-shell message on their website today, punishing Cuban citizen and the travel and tourism trade between Cuba and the United States.
The message reads:
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Effective March 18, 2019, the United States will reduce the B2 visa validity for Cuban nationals to three months with a single entry. U.S. immigration law requires that U.S. visa fees and validity periods be reciprocal, insofar as practicable, with the treatment accorded to U.S. citizens.
Cuba allows U.S. citizen tourists a single entry for a stay of two months, with a possible 30-day extension to three months total, for $50. Before the validity change, we allowed Cuban B2 applicants a 60-month, multiple-entry visa for a fee of $160. The Department of State is decreasing B2 visa validity to three months, single entry for Cuban nationals to match the Government of Cuba’s shorter validity for U.S. citizens in similar categories.
The B2 visa category is for tourism, family visits, medical treatment, and similar travel purposes. No other visa categories are being changed for Cuban nationals.
Existing five-year multiple entry B2 visas remain valid until their date of expiration.
What does it mean?
The elimination of the visa cuts a vital link between the U.S. and Cuba by forcing Cubans to make a costly and complicated trip to a third country like Mexico or Panama every single time they want to visit the U.S. That’s because the U.S. withdrew most of its non-essential diplomatic staff from Havana in September 2017 and stopped issuing visas of almost any type in Cuba.
Until now, Cubans who saved the money and mastered the complexities of successfully applying for a visa in a third country would receive a visa eliminating the need to apply again for another five years. That possibility will disappear on March 18 when the B2 visa will only allow a single entry for a three-month stay, Mara Tekach, the U.S. Embassy’s charge d’affaires, said in a video posted on Facebook Friday.
The seemingly obscure change in visa rules in fact is one of the harshest measures against Cuba taken by the Trump administration because of the effect it will have on the informal supply chain for the communist-run island’s small but vibrant private sector. Virtually all of the supplies used by Cuban entrepreneurs from barbers to restaurant owners are either stolen from state enterprises or brought in suitcases from capitalist countries by business owners or “mules,” couriers with visas who are paid to haul in the hundreds of varieties of products unavailable in Cuba’s stagnant, centrally planned economy.
The U.S. five-year visa not only allowed frequent trips to Miami, Latin American countries such as Mexico would allow Cubans with the U.S. visa to enter automatically.