Last Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba slowly started issuing visas again after being closed for four years due to alleged assaults on embassy staff. The decision is timely, as Cuba is experiencing mass emigration as a result of its worst economic crisis in 30 years.
Reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana
On 3 March this year, the gradual and limited opening of the US Embassy in Havana was announced by a spokesman for the US embassy without giving a definite date. The embassy closed its doors in September 2017 after then-President Donald Trump made a report of sonic attacks that would have altered the health of some US diplomats. This has been denied by the government in Havana. Cubans were therefore forced to apply for a visa to the US through another country, such as Colombia or Guyana.
The reopening of the embassy in Havana is the result of migration negotiations between Cuba and the US, which had been stalled since 2018. The Cuban government hopes to get 20,000 visas a year, as promised by the US government in Washington.
Worst economic crisis in Cuba in 30 years
The corona pandemic and the sanctions imposed by the United States have led to the worst crisis in Cuba in 30 years. Many Cubans hope to reach the US border via Central America or by sea. The US Customs Department has determined that more than 78,000 Cubans crossed the border into Mexico between October 2021 and March 2022.
Once the reopening of the American embassy was announced, many Cubans went to the consulate to apply for a visa to the United States without making an appointment.
Difference between a U.S. visa and an ESTA
Compared to the citizens of Cuba, who have to apply for a U.S. visa to travel to the United States, most citizens of the European Union are exempt from this requirement. They can apply for an ESTA instead. An ESTA is an electronic travel authorisation that allows most travellers from the European Union to travel to the USA without a visa. It is also a way for the US Immigration Services to know in advance who is travelling to the US. If your country does not meet the requirements for an ESTA, you will have to apply for a US visa.
A U.S. visa, like an ESTA, does not guarantee that you will be able to enter the US. The US Immigration Services have the right to deny you entry into the US if it appears that you pose a threat to national security.