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New rules to make it easier for Cubans to travel

The Cuban state is eliminating restrictions on travel, so that travelling abroad will be simpler for Cubans. It is the latest in a series of reforms to be introduced in the communist country.

The Cuban government on Tuesday announced that its citizens will not need an exit permit to leave the country beginning next year, the latest sliver of reform in one of the world's last surviving communist-ruled states.

From January 14, Cubans will not need an exit permit to travel outside of the country. They will no longer be obliged to provide authorities with a letter of invitation in order to obtain an exit visa, nor pay a hefty administration fee, unaffordable for many Cubans. A passport and a visa from the country they are travelling to are to be the only requirements.

Cubans are also to be allowed to stay abroad for up to 24 months. Currently, the limit is 11 months.

The revised travel regulations signify the relaxation of restrictions, which have been in place in Cuba for half a century, but have not prevented around 30,000 Cubans from illegally emigrating every year. Since 1966, the US government has given Cubans automatic residence if they make it to American shores.

In recent years, President Raul Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel in 2006, has overseen a trickle of reforms in Cuba. Last year, President Castro announced plans for incremental immigration reforms. He has also pushed for modernizing economic changes.

sej/kms (AFP, AP)