After months of waiting, Cuba’s new migration law took effect last month, and Radio Marti was there to cover the public’s reaction. On January 15, 2013 over three hundred people came to the Interests Section of the United States in Havana to be interviewed as a part of their visa application.
US Secretary of Press and Culture for USIS, Lynn Roche, told Radio Marti they were prepared for the day by hiring temporary staff and anticipating the crowd. According to Roche, the USIS streamlined the interview process and in some cases reduced the waiting time to less than one year. Roche welcomed the reform but stressed that there were still procedures that must be followed. “Our law is still the same, what we want is for Cubans not to make the dangerous journeys, rather that they use the processes that we have established for migration.” Faced with the possibility of an increase in the request for tourist visas, Roche recommended that travelers must be prepared to demonstrate they have strong ties to Cuba and they will return. Cuban Immigration reform requires that all Cubans can now travel abroad if they have a valid passport, and there is no longer a need for exit permits, or a “white card,” or a letter of invitation from someone on the outside.