U.S. Rolls Out Revised Cuba Policy, Easing Some Restrictions on Remittances, Travel | World News

By Daphne Psaledakis, Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States plans to take a series of steps to revise its policy toward Cuba, including easing some Trump-era restrictions on family remittances and travel to the island and sharply increasing the processing of U.S. visas for Cubans, administration officials said on Monday.

The measures, which come after a lengthy U.S. government review, mark the most significant changes in the U.S. approach to Havana since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

But the announcement stopped short of returning U.S.-Cuba relations to the historic rapprochement engineered by former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president. That included less crimped flow of remittances, fewer travel curbs and faster visa services.

The officials said that in the measures announced Monday, the United States would lift the cap on family remittances, previously set to $1,000 per quarter, and authorize donative remittances to non-family members.

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But the officials made clear that the United States would not remove entities from the Cuba Restricted List, a State Department list of Cuban government- and military-aligned companies with whom U.S. firms and citizens are barred from doing business.

“We are going to ensure that remittances flow more freely to the Cuban people, while not enriching those who perpetrate human rights abuses,” the official said.

The United States will use civilian “electronic payment processors” for remittances to avoid funds going directly to the Cuban government, the officials said, adding that the United States had already engaged with the Cuban government “about establishing a civilian processor for this.”

Biden officials have been mindful that easing restrictions on Cuba could lead to political fallout from conservative Cuban Americans, a key voting bloc in south Florida who mostly backed former President Donald Trump’s tough policies on Cuba.

Trump slashed visa processing, restricted remittances, scaled back flights to the island and increased hurdles for U.S. citizens seeking to travel to Cuba for anything other than family visits.

The officials gave few details on how the new policy would be implemented.

The Cuban embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the changes is a plan to reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which had provided a legal way for Cuban families to be reunited in the United States, and increase capacity for consular services.

Washington will aim to issue 20,000 immigrant visas a year, the official said, in line with a migration accord.

The U.S. embassy in Havana began issuing a trickle of immigrant visas to Cubans this month, making good on an earlier promise to restart visa processing on the island after a four-year hiatus.

The State Department under Trump sharply scaled back embassy staff in 2017 following a spate of “anomalous health incidents” that came to be known as “Havana syndrome.”

Cubans seeking to emigrate to the United States were instead directed to apply for visas in person at the U.S. embassies first in Colombia, and later in Guyana, costly trips beyond the reach of many.

The Biden administration will also expand authorized travel to Cuba, allowing flights to and from the country to use airports other than Havana, the officials said.

Washington will also reinstate some categories of group educational travel, as well as certain travel related to professional meetings and research.

Individual “people-to-people” travel, however, will not be reinstated, the officials said. The category was eliminated by Trump officials who said it was being abused by Americans taking beach vacations.

The United States will also increase support for independent Cuban entrepreneurs, aiming to ease access to the internet and expanding access to microfinance and training, among other measures.

Biden promised during the 2020 election to re-engage with Cuba. He instead imposed fresh sanctions on Cuban officials in response to Havana’s crackdown on protesters following widespread marches on the island last July.

Hundreds were arrested during and after the demonstrations, widely considered to be the largest protests since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Washington has condemned Cuban authorities for harsh sentences that have been given to some.

The Cuban government blamed the protests on meddling by the United States.

The officials said a decision has not been made on whether to invite Cuba to the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas, despite threats from Mexico and others that they will not attend unless all countries in the Americas are invited.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk;Editing by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O’Brien)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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Revised international travel requirements coming Monday for the vaccinated, unvaccinated

Starting Monday all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 24 hours before their flights depart. Previously vaccinated travelers coming to the U.S. had three days to get a negative result, whereas those unvaccinated had one day.

“I just came back from Paris,” said Rancho Bernardo resident Luke Trowbridge. “You have to get like a test three days before and once you were clear, you were all set to go.”

Trowbridge said the one day test requirement is not an inconvenience.

“It’s really easy,” he said. “As long as you make a little bit of time for it.”

Other people said the same thing.

“I don’t think that’s going to affect me,” said Spring Valley resident Donovan Turner who was flying to Brazil Friday.

The measures are being taken by federal officials out of an abundance of caution and that is because there is still a lot unknown about this new variant Omicron. Researchers are racing to answer questions like if it’s more contagious or vaccine resistant or has a higher hospitalization rate.

The mask requirement inside of airports and plane was also extended this week. The measures come as travel out of San Diego has been rebounding.

“Domestic has done a lot better than international and that’s really because they haven’t been operating this entire time,” said San Diego International spokesperson Sabrina LoPiccolo.

Revised international travel requirements coming Monday for the vaccinated, unvaccinated

Airlines have not brought back all their flights, especially international carriers. This year Japan Airlines came back, along with flights to Canada and most recently in October flights resumed to London. Overall traffic is still down compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“Currently we’re between about 20% to 25% down from what we saw in 2019,” LoPiccolo said. “We are definitely a lot closer than what we saw last year around this time, but we haven’t fully recovered.”

For those with questions about the changes a good tip is to contact your airline carrier or check the CDC’s travel page on their website.

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Tehama County Public Health announces revised travel guidelines – Red Bluff Daily News

RED BLUFF — Tehama County Public Health has shared a revised travel advisory from the California Department of Public Health.

Californians should stay within 120 miles of their home unless they are traveling for essential purposes in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 and help contain any new sources of infection, according to a press release issued Thursday by the county.

Essential travel includes work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.

Traveling into California from other states or countries for tourism or recreation is strongly discouraged.

Anyone traveling into Tehama County from outside California should self-quarantine for 10 days, the release said.

Some exceptions include individuals meeting urgent healthcare needs or other emergency response, individuals who have tested positive for the virus within the last 90 days either before or after travel and have completed their isolation period and are asymptomatic and individuals within 90 days of the second dose of a two-dose COVID vaccine or the only dose of a one-dose COVID vaccine.

Individuals who routinely cross state or country borders for essential travel for whom self-quarantine is impractical must comply with all masking and social distance guidelines.

“Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” the release said. “We continue to encourage testing.”

Schedule a testing appointment online at www.LHI.CARE. Check your eligibility to receive a COVID vaccination at www.myturn.ca.gov.

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