Skip to main content

U.S. visa 'bomb' for Cuba visitors

 

For the hundreds of thousands of UK and European citizens who have visited Cuba and its beaches in the last eleven years, the U.S. government has a penalty in place. Instead of using the easily-obtained ESTA and visa waiver system, they will now need to apply for a $160 one-time tourist visa.

In one of his last acts as President, Donald Trump added Cuba to the U.S. State Department's list of 'state sponsors of international terrorism, a status Cuba hotly denies. The other countries on the list are Iran, North Korea and Syria. President Biden has left the list as is. The ban applies to any trips after March 1, 2011, even if a country was added to the list later.

In contrast to the $21 fee and two-year validity for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), a tourist visa is only good for a specific trip. For a family of four who vacationed on a Cuban beach a few years ago, it will now add $640 to the cost of visiting the U.S.

As well, while the ESTA takes minutes online, the tourist visa is available only at U.S. consulates and requires an in-person interview. The State Department has acknowledged to The Independent (UK) that the wait for appointments is now months long; the U.S. embassy in London tells applicants to “Please note that due to an increasing backlog of visa appointment requests, you may experience a significant delay between paying your visa fee and scheduling an interview appointment. By paying the visa fee, you acknowledge that it may take several months to schedule an interview appointment.”

Which, of course means, that potential visitors might have hundreds of dollars tied up in non-refundable visa fees while unable to make travel or lodging arrangements because they do not know when, or whether, they will be approved.

If the aim of this process is to discourage visits to Cuba, it might turn out to have the opposite effect: "Honey, no way to tell if we can take that trip to the Grand Canyon and Orlando or how many deposits we might lose. Let's just cancel the idea and vacation in Cuba, instead!"

Photo: Costa Verde, Cuba (GarryRF/TravelGumbo)

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Add Comment

Comments (3)

Newest · Oldest · Popular

UPDATE

A visa issue is also affecting British travelers to India, which only recently reinstated its online eVisa system, similar to the U.S. ESTA after a pandemic pause.

In its re-instated form, UK residents are not eligible for it and must apply to an Indian visa office and have an in-person interview; appointments are few and hard to find.

No official word on why UK residents, who constitute a large part of tourism to India were excluded; some suggest it is because in the interim the UK left the EU and was no longer covered in that category, while others believe it is because the UK has made it quite difficult for Indians to obtain visas for the UK.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Thanks for the information re India. I certainly had not heard anything about it - and it does affect our travel plans for early spring. I suspect it's tit-for-tat. The UK's current immigration policies - driven by a hard-right agenda - are not likely to win many friends around the world.

UPDATE

British travel writer Simon Calder, writing in The Independent (UK), reports that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency will soon issue a clarification on the Cuba visit issue, applying the restriction only to visits made after January 12, 2021, the date that former President Trump designated Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism.

That would clear the way for easier travel to the U.S. for people who had visited Cuba between March, 2011 when the rule about state-sponsored terrorism was issued and January, 2021 when it was applied to Cuba.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Last edited by PHeymont
Post
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×