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U.S. extends duration of non-immigrant visas for Cubans


08:42, August 01, 2013

WASHINGTON, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The United States is extending the duration of non-immigrant visas for Cuban travelers from the current six months to five years as of Thursday, the State Department announced on Wednesday.

"Effective tomorrow, I believe Aug. 1, the State Department is changing the maximum validity of visitor visas for family and other personal non-immigrant travel, from six months -- as it is currently -- six-month single entry to five years multiple entries for qualified Cuban nationals," department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at a daily press briefing here.

The change, she said, is part of Washington's "broader policy to increase people-to-people ties between Americans and Cubans." But she clarified that it has no relevance to migration talks between the two countries that ended days ago.

The United States imposed a sweeping economic and trade embargo on Cuba in 1962, following the island nation's 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro.

The Obama administration, during its first term, eased limits on remittances and travel to Cuba. Cuban leader Raul Castro also expressed willingness to engage in dialogue with the United States without preconditions.

Bilateral migration talks, which were suspended in 2011 following Cuba's jailing of Alan Gross, an American who installed Internet networks for Cuban Jews under a U.S. program that Cuba considers subversive, resumed earlier this month.

Washington and Havana are also exploring the possibility of re- establishing direct mail service after a 50-year ban.

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