14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 8 January 2018 — The Colombian consulates in Havana and Miami have been overwhelmed in recent weeks by the number of Cubans who hope for a visa to travel to Colombia due to the transfer of immigration procedures from the US consulate in Havana to its counterpart in Bogota
“Every day we are serving a number of people much higher than normal. They usually arrive without an appointment and ask to be seen in a very short period of time. We are facing a difficult situation,” an official of the Colombian consulate told 14ymedio.
To travel to Colombia, Cubans residing in South Florida (who do not have US citizenship) need to appear at the Colombian Consulate in Miami-Dade County and request an appointment to present documents such as a photocopy of the main page of their passport and another of current extensions, a photocopy of their permanent residence permit for the United States (green card) and their airline ticket to enter and leave Colombia. The consular authorities also request their hotel reservation in Colombia and their last six months’ bank statements, including the requirement to have a minimum balance of 700 dollars.
The charge for the “visa study” is $52, and if it is approved there is another $82 charge.
“We do not understand why so many Cubans want to travel to Colombia if their relatives on the island are the ones who must do it to complete their procedures at the US embassy,” said a diplomatic source who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
José Miguel Ramos, one Cuban among the dozens who pass through the consular office on a daily basis, explained to this newspaper that although he lives in Miami, he is trying to travel to Bogotá to help his wife and their five-year-old son in the procedures that the interview requires.
“My family has never left Cuba. I need to travel to reconnect with them and accompany them throughout this process. In Colombia they will have to undergo medical examinations and several procedures for which they will surely need help,” he says.
For Ramos, originally from Pinar del Río, the attention and organization in the Colombian consulate has been “excellent,” an opinion that others of his compatriots do not share.
“Last week several people spent the whole day waiting to be served and they were not,” says Maria, a 54-year-old woman who waited for more than three hours at the consulate.
“It is abusive that we have to pay for visas to Colombia when we reside in the United States. We are not to blame for the Americans moving the officials [from the US embassy in Havana to the US embassy in Bogota] or for the Government of Cuba getting into that problem with the acoustic attacks,” complained the woman. She also said was on the verge of losing her job after being absent for several days.
“My child has the interview at the US embassy in Colombia on January 23 and at the Miami consulate they wanted to give me an appointment for the end of the month. There is a lot of lack of coordination,” she adds.
Consulate officials assured this newspaper that Colombia has “nothing to do” with the transfer of the activities of the US embassy in Havana. “We are not to blame for this happening. We are trying to help the greatest number of people but always on the basis of respect and communication,” they explained.
“The Colombian consulate in Miami has no obligation to grant a visa to Cubans who want to reunite with their family in Bogota. To obtain the visa there is a process with requirements that must be respected,” said the consular authorities.
At the end of September 2016, the United States withdrew more than half the staff of its embassy in Cuba and canceled the issuance of visas there indefinitely, in response to the alleged “acoustic attacks” against its diplomats. Subsequently, the State Department announced that it would process immigrant visas for Cubans at its embassy in Bogota, while those of nonimmigrants could be requested at any US consulate. The Family Reunification Program for Cubans has been suspended for months.
The avalanche of Cubans requesting visas to Colombia is also happening at Colombia’s consulate in Havana. Last week hundreds of people who had consular interviews scheduled between September and December were being summoned for interviews in Bogota.
“It is very difficult to get them to coordinate the appointments between the US Embassy and the Colombian Embassy. I do not have a visa for Colombia yet and I have to travel at the end of the month,” explains Félix González, a Cuban living in Havana.
The conditions for requesting the travel document in the Cuban capital are “extremely difficult,” González explains by telephone to this newspaper.
“They ask us to upload all the documents to the website of Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and doing that from here takes a lot of work,” he laments.
Cuban residents on the island must also prove that they have had at least $2,000 in a bank account for the last six months as proof of solvency, in order for the visa to be issued.
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