Can I Go and Live in Cuba?

28 12 2010

View from Santiago de Cuba

Somebody that I know did some work experience at the Cuban Embassy in London. She told me that a number of people would ring the embassy asking if they could emigrate to Cuba. It is also a question that I have seen asked on internet forums. The answer is, basically, yes but with great difficulty.

These are the different ways of spending extended periods of time in Cuba:

The tourist visa

A tourist visa is valid for 30 days (unless you are from Canada, in which case it is for 90 days). At the end of the first 30 day period, you can extend the visa for up to another 30 days, making a total stay of 60 days. At the end of 60 days you can then leave the island – the cheapest route is to Cancun – and return on the next flight, when another 60 day period will start. This can be repeated indefinitely.

This is probably the most commonly used route to spend extended periods on the island. It is also the most expensive – you need to pay for a flight every 60 days. Whilst in Cuba you must stay in licensed tourist accommodation – either a hotel or a private house with a licence (known as a casa particular).

Family Visa

This is for people with immediate family in Cuba (including a spouse). It works a bit like the tourist visa – i.e. valid for 30 days + 30 – but the main difference is that you can stay in the family accommodation, saving on hotel costs.

Student Visa

If you sign up to study at one of the thirteen universities in Cuba – and they all offer Spanish courses for foreigners – you can remain in Cuba for the duration of your studies. This could last for weeks, months or even years. For this you must either stay in university accommodation or licensed tourist accommodation.

Temporary Residence


Temporary residence is granted to people who obtain employment in Cuba. It is very rare for a foreigner to be able to do that. However, there are some foreign companies operating there and they do employ some foreign nationals. I have also heard of foreigners being employed as translators for media organisations. For people who obtain such employment, they are granted residence for as long as the employment lasts. It is not necessary to stay in licensed tourist accommodation.

The big downside to temporary residence status is that – like Cuban citizens – you must apply for permission to leave the country. This can take up to a couple of weeks. For a fee, there is a fast-track procedure, but even this can take up to three days.

Permanent Residence

For a foreigner who is married to a Cuban, it is possible to apply for permanent residency status. It is necessary to have the sum of 5000 CUC in a Cuban bank account and to be able to demonstrate that you will be financially independent. You also need to undertake some health tests and to get proof of no serious criminal record.

With this status, you are for all intents and purposes a Cuban citizen. You get an ID card and even a ration book. However, you have to apply for permission to leave the country, as with temporary residency.

Why would anybody want to live in Cuba?

Perhaps the people who ask about living there are seduced by the idea of living in the Caribbean sunshine for 12 months of the year. Some may think that it is some kind of socialist paradise and want to escape from the capitalist rat-race. Maybe some people have been there on holiday and think that it is a nice place to retire to. For others, undoubtedly, it is because they have fallen in love with a Cuban. Most have probably not given it a lot of thought or done much research.

For me, the major advantages would be:

  • Climate – 12 months of mostly sunshine would make a nice change from Northern Europe


  • Personal Safety – Cuba is a much safer place than almost anywhere else in the world, especially in the developing world


  • Landscape, Coastline and Environment – Cuba has some beautiful beaches and scenery. The low level of car ownership means that roads are much quieter than elsewhere.


  • The People – Cuban people tend to be very friendly and relaxed


The major disadvantages would be:

  • Availability of goods and services – for a foreigner with money, this is much easier than for the average Cuban. However, it can still be difficult to get certain things at certain times – such as deodorant or shampoo, or even cheese.


  • Communication – the Cuban newspapers do not carry much news. Access to the internet is expensive and slow. International telephone calls are very expensive.



2 responses

30 01 2011

An exceptional report about the city and daily life there. Having rented an apartment in Stgo many times I found it very interesting reading about your experiences. Accurate and packed full of useful information, this series of articles should be ‘required reading’ for anyone considering visiting and living in the real Stgo. Congradulations on a job well done.

3 07 2011
Jaimie Cooper

I have been visiting Cuba for many years and enjoy every hour that I have been there. I have considered marriage to a Cuban, but after reflections, it is difficult to make the relationship work. Even at this time the person I see still insists on marriage. What To Do ? It is very difficult for Cubans and foreigners alike to make these work. Culture, Language, personalities and family all come into play. When I go to Cuba I bring things they do not have ready access to and are a necessity. I can not stay in a Cuban home with the family. However, i do stay at a local hotel that, so far, is reasonable. My friend can visit me and stay as long as we wish. There is no problems, unless… my friend was stopped by the police and was with another foreigner. Then my friend runs the risk of being incarcerated up to 4 years.
I hate to sound callous here…but if I was married … that could happen as it happens in my own country….so the risk is not with me .. it is with my friend. So far it is working out…and has been for over 5 years. I do not find it reasonable to enter into a marriage contract when both of us … and the family … are content in these arrangements. Granted.. yes… I would love to marry my friend…and be able to live in the casa together… but it would also put a strain on our relationship.

This is lengthy, but please understand what I am saying here. We have had many discussions on the marriage and living in the casa together. In Cuba…being married…does not automatically give you the right to live in the Cuban Casa. Other things enter into this arrangement… I will not elaborate them further… But this is the other personal side… I said .. I have friends coming to Cuba and would love to see them so I will be going to the resort they are at for a few days to visit. My partner said .. great…me too….. I said that was ok…but what do you want to see them for… you do not know them and you have met them before and do not even like them…. the Answer…. to check on you !!!
Just do your homework and lead with your head.. .not your heart…J

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