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September 25, 2017

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Cubans soon to not need exit permit to go overseas

HAVANA -- Cubans will no longer need an exit permit to travel abroad from January, the communist regime said on Tuesday, in a major overhaul of a half-century-old policy despised by the island's citizens.

The changes are the latest in a series of gradual reforms implemented in recent years by President Raul Castro, who took the helm from his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2006.

The bureaucratic headache and costs behind the exit visa, known as the "white card," have trapped many Cubans in their own country, prompting legions to leave illegally, often in risky boat trips to nearby Florida.

The United States and Cuban exiles cautiously welcomed the changes, which could trigger a new rush to Florida, just 90 miles (145 kilometers) north, when they come into effect on Jan. 14.

Under the new rules, Cubans will only need a passport to leave the country instead of having to apply for an exit permit, and the period allowed for overseas stays will be extended from 11 to 24 months.

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