Cuba Holds World Record For Visa Applications Rejected By The United States
14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 25 March 2017 – Maria,
59, has a daughter in Miami she hasn’t seen for six years. Her visa
applications have been denied three times and she promised herself that
she would never “step foot in” the US consulate in Havana again.
Cuba is the country with the most denials of those who aspired to travel
to the United States in the last two years. In the midst of an abrupt
drop in the granting of visas under Barack Obama’s administration, the
Department of State rejected 76% of the travel requests made by Cuban
citizens in fiscal 2015, according to figures released by the US press.
Cubans are followed on the US consulate most-rejected list by nationals
of Laos (67%), Guinea-Bissau (65%) and Somalia (65%). In the Americas,
the others most affected, although far behind Cubans, are Haitians (60%).
According to preliminary data released by the US State Department, the
situation has worsened in fiscal year 2016, with Cuban visa applications
rejected at a rate of 81.85%.
Each interview to request a visa cost Maria about 160 Cuban convertible
pesos (CUC), with no chance of reimbursement, nor has she ever received
any explanations about why her permission to travel was denied.
On each occasion the woman dressed in her best clothes, added an
expensive perfume that her daughter sent her, and practiced her possible
answers in front of the mirror. “No, I will not work during my stay,”
she repeated several times. “I want to see my granddaughter who is a
little girl,” and “I can’t live anywhere but Cuba,” she loudly repeats
as a refrain.
She took with her the title to her house in Central Havana, a copy of
her bank statement and several photos with her husband in case they
asked her to provide reasons why she would not remain “across the pond.”
Last year 14,291 Cubans received visas for family visits, to participate
in exchange programs, and for cultural, sports or business reasons,
among other categories. The figure contrasts with the 22,797 visas
granted in 2015 and, more strikingly, the 41,001 granted in 2014.
The State Department said that the reduction of visas granted in Havana
is because of no specific reason, but that because the valid time period
of the multi-entry visas was extended to five years in 2013, many
islanders don’t need to return for new interviews to make multiple trips
to the United States.
But Maria did not figure among the fortunate in any of her three attempts.
The last time she headed to the imposing building that houses that US
consulate in the early morning hours, she prayed to the Virgin of
Mercedes, made a cross with the sole of her shoe and put flowers before
the portrait of her deceased mother.
She went to apply for a B2 Visa, the ones that allow multiple visits to
the United States to visit relatives and for tourism. It seemed like the
line lasted “an eternity” before they called her name, she said. Then
came the iron-clad security to enter the building.
“The interview room had an intimidating coldness,” she recalls, and was
long and rectangular. Applicants talked to immigration officials through
The woman’s feet trembled and the clerk on the other side of the glass
gave her no time to explain much. He just made a mark on the form with
each answer. A man was crying ata nearby window and an octogenarian lady
sighed after hearing she was not approved.
Maria knows that the United States and Cuba have signed an agreement for
20,000 Cubans to receive immigrant visas every year. In 1995, President
Bill Clinton negotiated that agreement to end the Rafter Crisis, fueled
by the economic recession that hit the island after the fall of the
In 2016, 9,131 Cubans obtained a visa to legally emigrate to the United
States, many of them under the Cuban Parole Family Reunification
Program, and others through the International Lottery of Diversity Visas
or the Cuban Parole program, among others.
More than two million Cubans reside in the United States, with an active
participation in the economy and politics, primarily in South Florida.
The Cuban Adjustment Act, approved in 1966, allows Cubans to obtain
permanent residence (a green card) if, after entering legally, they
spend one year in the United States. A special welcoming policy only for
Cubans known as wet foot/dry foot was cancelled in January; this policy
allowed any Cuban who stepped foot in the country, even without papers,
to remain, while Cubans who were intercepted at sea were returned to the
island. In the last five years 150,000 Cubans took advantage of this
policy to settle in the United States.
However, Mary’s intention is not to emigrate. She does not want to live
in a country that is not her country, although her relatives have told
her that Miami “is full of Cubans” and that Hialeah is like Central Havana.
Despite her Afro-Cuban rites and trying to maintain a positive mental
attitude, in her last interview she didn’t have any “luck” either.
She received a quick denial and was given no chance to display all the
answers she had rehearsed. In her opinion, the fact of being under 65
plays against her. “They approve older people who cannot work illegally
there,” the lady assumes.
For Eloisa, a retired science teacher, that is not the reason, rather it
is “hostility toward Cubans” by the US Government.
“The Americans want to take over Cuba. It has always been their greatest
desire and because they cannot do it, they punish us by separating us
from our children,” the woman says by phone. She has been a member of
the Cuban Communist Party for 25 years and has had two children living
in Houston for just over six years.
Although she only tried once, last year, the refusal from the consulate
made her not want to try again.
“My children work very hard and I wanted to give them the pleasure of
going to spend a little time with them. But hey, it’s not to be, “ she
says in a voice that is brittle and resigned.
Mary, however, does not tire. This year her daughter will gain American
citizenship and the woman hopes that this new condition will facilitate
a positive response to her next request. Although this new attempt will
leave her a little older and with almost $500 less in her pocket, in a
country where the average monthly salary does not exceed $28.
Source: Cuba Holds World Record For Visa Applications Rejected By The
United States – Translating Cuba –