GRANMA (Cuba), AP

Worldcrunch

HAVANA - Cuba’s Foreign Ministry has announced that it will no longer require its citizens to apply for an exit permit before travelling abroad.

Starting January 14 next year, Cubans will no longer have to go through a lengthy and expensive process - citizens have to pay between $150 and $200 for an exit visa and dissidents are often denied their exit visa applications.

Under the new regulations, travelers will only have to present a valid passport and an entry visa for the country where they are headed.

The decision to ease travel restrictions, published in the Communist Party official news site Granma, reads: "As part of the work under way to update the current migratory policy and adjust it to the conditions of the present and the foreseeable future, the Cuban government, in exercise of its sovereignty, has decided to remove the procedure of the exit visa for travel to the exterior."

The measure also extends the amount of time Cubans can remain abroad to 24 months, and they can request an extension when that runs out. Currently, Cubans lose residency and other rights after 11 months overseas, AP reports.

The move is part of the reforms promised by Cuban President Raul Castro when he took office in 2008 as he pledged to do away with unnecessary restrictions.