Español According to a US Customs and Border Protection report, more than 22,000 Cubans legally traveled to the United States last year, after Raúl Castro did away with the regime’s exit-visa policy in January 2013.
The figure is double the number of Cuban travelers to the United States in 2012, and nearly triple those from 2011. In the past, most Cubans traveled to the United States via the Florida straits, but in 2013, the majority entered the country across its land borders with Mexico and Canada. Paired with those who travel to the United States illegally, an estimated 50,000 total Cubans move to the United States every year.
Raúl Castro’s reforms have made it easier for Cuban citizens to travel abroad legally by removing an expensive exit fee, although the cost of a passport may be too much for many. In 2013, 4,000 people did reach the United States from Cuba by water, but the rise in air travel marks a notable shift in Cuban-migration patterns.
Despite Raúl Castro’s modest economic reforms on the island to promote investment, opportunities for economic growth remain minimal. As a result, many Cubans are taking advantage of reduced travel restrictions to relocate to other countries, and adding to the country’s so-called brain drain.
Some Cubans have also used their Spanish passports to travel to the United States. In 2008, Spain passed a law that made all Cubans who had fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War eligible for Spanish passports, which 108,000 Cubans hold.
In 2012, about 18,000 Cuban citizens also entered the United States via Ecuador, a country that does not require visas upon entry. From Ecuador, they can travel north by plane, train, or bus.