(NewsNation) — The Biden administration said Wednesday the U.S. Embassy in Cuba will resume full immigrant visa processing for the first time since 2017, making it easier for Cubans to reunite with family members in the United States.
The change is set to be implemented in early 2023.
The U.S. government will also stop requiring Cubans seeking visas in family preference categories to travel to Georgetown, Guyana, for their interviews.
Additional government personnel will staff the embassy to handle the visa requests. The added personnel are part of the commitment stemming from the resumption of the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program last month. The 2007 program enables U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for their family members in Cuba to come to the U.S. sooner than conventionally allowed.
Under accords with Cuba, the U.S. has committed to ensuring the legal migration of at least 20,000 Cubans annually, not including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
Attempted border crossings by Cubans has increased sharply over the past year, according to data issued Monday by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S. officials stopped Cubans who were trying to enter the U.S. 19,057 times in August, a more than four-fold increase from August 2021.
Border crossings have been fueled partly by repeat crossers because there are no legal consequences for getting expelled under a pandemic-era rule known as Title 42. That rule denies a right to seek asylum.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.