Following a long review of U.S.-Cuba relations, the White House is reportedly working on a plan to make it easier for Americans to visit their friends and relatives in Cuba.
Such policy changes would partially reverse some of the former Trump administration’s harsh policies implemented against the island nation, easing travel restrictions that are presently in place.
Part of the plan would include expanding flights to Cuba, enabling travelers to fly into locations other than the single airport in Havana that had been sanctioned under the Trump administration rules. New regulations would allow airports beyond the capital city to open themselves to charter flights, Travel Noire reported.
“The measures today again are practical steps that we are taking to address the humanitarian situation and to respond to the needs of the Cuban people,” a senior administration official told NPR. “President Biden is also fulfilling his commitment to the Cuban-American community and their family members in Cuba by announcing measures in four key areas which we plan to implement in the coming weeks.”
A senior administration official also told NPR that the White House’s impending moves are intended to help the Cuban people.
One of the aims of this policy overhaul is to expand authorized travel between the U.S. and Cuba. However, the loosening of some restrictions doesn’t mean that the communist-led Caribbean country would be fully open to U.S. tourists.
Only groups that plan on going to Cuba for educational or work purposes will be permitted to travel under the group ‘People to People’ authorized travel category, although the Biden administration’s announcement didn’t offer any details about how this travel exception would be implemented.
Mark Feierstein, a former senior adviser at the U.S. Agency for International Development under President Biden, called the upcoming policy revision “a big change” and said that it’s “tilting back” toward Obama-era policies.
As part of these policy changes, the U.S. government will be bolstering its consular services, increasing support for Cuban entrepreneurs and lifting a $1,000 limit on family remittance payments (the transfer of money between people in the U.S. and their family members in Cuba).
It will also reinstate the ‘Cuba Family Reunification Parole Program’, which allows certain eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply to bring their family members from Cuba without waiting for their immigrant visas to become available.
However, the intended changes fall short of previous policies toward Cuba that existed under the Obama administration. For example, the individual ‘People to People’ educational travel category that was in place under President Obama will not be reinstated.
Under the Obama-era individual exception, travelers were permitted to use a self-certification of their own compliance with the rules to travel independently to Cuba, which past opponents saw as, “a means for individuals to engage in prohibited tourist travel to Cuba,” according to the legal offices of Holland & Knight.
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