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    US ups duration of non-immigrant visas for Cubans

    Posted on Wednesday, 07.31.13

    US ups duration of non-immigrant visas for Cubans
    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Wednesday it is
    extending the duration of non-immigrant visas for Cuban travelers from
    six months to five years, two weeks after officials from the two
    countries resumed long-stalled migration talks.

    The change also means Cubans approved for B-2 visas for family visits or
    personal travel will be allowed multiple entries, rather than be
    required to reapply in person each time they seek to travel to the
    United States. B-1 business and B-1/B-2 combination visas will still be
    for six months and a single entry.

    “The increased visa validity removes procedural and financial burdens on
    Cuban travelers,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in an
    email to The Associated Press.

    He added that it will decrease wait times for visa interviews at the
    U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which Washington maintains instead of
    an embassy because the historic Cold War foes do not have full
    diplomatic ties.

    Ventrell did not say whether the policy switch was a direct result of
    the July 17 migration talks in Washington.

    The discussions are supposed to take place every six months. However
    they had been on ice since January 2011, as the two countries butted
    heads on issues such as the imprisonment of a U.S. government
    subcontractor sentenced to 15 years in Cuba.

    The resumption of the high-level talks, along with renewed discussions
    on reestablishing direct mail service, is among a number of signs of
    baby steps toward rapprochement in recent months.

    In May, a U.S. judge gave a convicted Cuban intelligence agent the green
    light to return to the island even though his parole following a long
    prison term on spy charges had not yet ended. And in June, Cuba said it
    would allow an American doctor to examine Alan Gross, the jailed
    subcontractor.

    Meanwhile, Cuba has reformed its own migratory rules, ending an exit
    visa requirement in January that had previously been imposed on all
    Cubans. Islanders can still be denied passports in some cases, such as
    for pending legal cases against them, but a number of the most outspoken
    dissidents have been allowed to travel overseas since the reform.

    Ventrell said, however, that the change announced Wednesday does not
    amount to a significant change in Washington’s policy toward Havana.

    “The Obama administration believes these measures, in addition to
    others, will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in
    Cuba; and enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the
    Cuban people,” he wrote.

    Source: “WASHINGTON: US ups duration of non-immigrant visas for Cubans –
    Politics Wires – MiamiHerald.com” –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/31/3533915/us-ups-duration-of-non-immigrant.html