Cuba Relaxing Rules For International Travelers With New Electronic Visa

One of the strictest countries to be a tourist in the world, the Caribbean cultural hotspot that is Cuba is finally easing entry rules for foreign guests. The country is launching a new electronic visa this May that will make traveling there alot easier, including for our Globe Aware volunteers.

Cuba Is Relaxing Rules For All International Travelers With New Electronic Visa

By: Vinicius Costa
May 9, 2024
Travel Off Path

One of the strictest countries to be a tourist in the world, the Caribbean cultural hotspot that is Cuba is finally easing entry rules for foreign guests.

The country is launching a new electronic visa (or eVisa) this May that will make traveling there a lot easier, including for Americans.

Cuba has been known for decades to impose a particularly harsh immigration policy, exempting nationals of only a handful of countries to fly to the island visa-free, while a majority of visitors would have to apply either for a Consulate-issued visa or a tourist entry permit.

Now, this all changes, as Cuba prepares to enter a new era of open borders—well, sort of:

The Pearl of the Antilles Is Relaxing Entry Rules, At Last

Cuba is one of the most popular Caribbean destinations, best known for its rich colonial heritage, flavorful cuisines, crystal-clear waters, and… hem, its socialist principles.

It is home to Havana, a beautiful national capital dotted with Spanish-era wonders, with the Baroque San Cristóbal Cathedral, Plaza Vieja (or Old Square), and the 16th-century Castillo de la Real Fuerza to name a few.

Classic cars and timeless memorabilia that look exactly as they were in the 1960s add to Havana’s vintage charm, and beyond just the aesthetics of it, it really won’t take you long to fall in love with the thriving music scene and local food.

Regrettably, Havana-Washington relations have been frail, to say the least.

For decades now, the U.S. and Cuba have been at loggerheads over which ideological path to follow, to put it quite simply, and several embargoes and economic sanctions later imposed by the former, it’s fair to say bilateral relations are… less than amicable.

Cuba’s spate with the U.S. has also impacted its ties with U.S. allies and much of Latin America, leaving it essentially isolated, and at this point, you may be wondering why we’re going over the geopolitics of it when what we’re actually concerned with is travel.

Well, it’s precisely Cuba’s pariah status that has made it enforce restrictive entry guidelines for decades until, well, now.

Cuba Launches Easy-To-Apply eVisas

Historically, only tourists from 19 countries have been allowed to enter Cuba as tourists visa-free, notably those coming from countries that also embody Marxist values, or were once part of the defunct Eastern bloc, like Russia, Belarus, and more recently China.

Cuba is still standing firm in its beliefs, and they’re not doing away with visas for the Western World, however, local authorities have just confirmed starting this month, the country will implement a new eVisa that is set to faciliate travel for Americans and Europeans.

eVisas are an increasingly popular alternative to regular visas, which typically involve a grueling application process, with visits to Consulates for interviews, surrending of personal documents, and the payment of exorbitant nonreimbursable fees in the event of a visa denial.

Variably called eVisa or Travel Authorization, depending on the country that makes use of them, these permits can be instead obtained online, from the comfort of home, usually by filling out a simplified application form, and the visa itself is sent via email.

There are several of hugely-popular tourist destinations that require U.S. citizens to obtain an online permit ahead of flying, most notably Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam, and soon enough, even the European Union will introduce its own.

Not only is Cuba making travel easier, it is signaling a significant change in its tourism policy:

Is This The End Of The Dreaded Pink Tourist Card?

You see, Americans and Europeans—and much of the world, for the matter—had been subject to the Toruist Card (or Tarjeta de Turista) requirement.

It can only be acquired at Cuban consular posts, and these can be particularly tricky to deal with depending on your country of origin, or alternatively, airlines and travel agencies that have been licensed by the Cuban administration to sell them.

There are two types of Tourist Card, one is pink, the other is green, and while we’ve never been able to establish a difference between them, it has been widely reported that Americans, or all Stateside passengers arriving to Cuba, must obtain a pink card.

Well, at least it’s not like it doesn’t fit with last year’s Barbiemania trend…

Anyway, pink or green, a Tourist Card granted an initial stay of 90 days, renewable for an additional 90 once its holder is in Cuba; as for the price, Americans had to fork out $100 to get it (if you’re traveling with family, you soon realize how the Pearl of the Antilles is not as affordable a getaway as Mexico).

How Does The eVisa Work?

The eVisa has not yet been launched—it’s supposed to come at some point in May 2024, so we’ll keep you on the loop for that one—but based on the information available, it will ‘simplify’ the visa application process, and eliminate the need for providing physical documents.

Cuba is still a heavily surveilled island state, and we expect the application form to be detailed but not too different from other eVisas:

Usually, you must provide your full name and passport details, inform authorities of the travel dates, inbound and outbound, tick a few boxes relating to security questions (and as this is Cuba, we’ll advise you to read them carefully), and finally, pay a fee.

You’re probably wondering if the eVisa is still going to cost Americans a hundred bucks, and at this point, eVisa application managers have not divulged fees yet, but we wouldn’t count on a discounted rate unless stated otherwise.

The validity of the eVisa is also expected to be 90 days, similarly to the soon-to-be-discontinued Tourist Card, though that has not been confirmed, either.

We also don’t know at this stage whether tourists who have been subject to formal visa requirements by Cuba and thus were not eligible to apply for Tourist Cards—Indians, Haitians, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Iranians—will be permitted to use eVisas.

According to local news outlets, the eVisa system will be managed by Cuban consular officers.


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