Your visa is about to expire and you want an extension so you can stay longer on the island. Visa renewals and extensions in Cuba are a relatively straightforward process once you know how.
Here’s a step by step guide to the Cuban visa renewal process. Along with what you should and should not do based on one Aussie’s experience of visa extensions in Cuba.
How To Extend A Visa In Cuba?
Dress Appropriately When Visiting Aduana
It’s visa renewal day and you’re trying to decide what to wear. Well, think of it like a job interview. A job interview where you have to line up all day in a humid climate without air-conditioning.
Like any ‘interview’ you can’t wear shorts or open shoes (i.e. flip flops, crocs or sandals). You should also be careful which shirt you wear. Because if the staff at immigration don’t like what you’re wearing they can and will, turn you away.
And once you have decided what you’ll wear, try not to melt in the humidity wearing jeans, boots, shirt and covid face mask. Because if you look like you’re dying they can and likely will, turn you away.
Think of the Cuban visa extension process as the worlds toughest job interview. One where they’re testing you for character, mental fortitude and strength of will.
Picture them trying to see if you have what it takes to remain on the island. And not have your torch extinguished and be voted off the island like the TV show ‘Survivor’.
Though in reality the Cuban visa extension process is more like a mashup of ‘The Amazing Race’ and ‘Survivor’. Good luck, future contestants!
Who to take When Extending A Visa In Cuba
Once you’ve put on your Sunday best and are dressed for cooler climates despite being in the tropics, the next step of the process is to corral your host and have them do the same.
Your host has likely sensed you’ll need to extend your visa and will be hiding from you. Generally, the best way to locate and convince your host to accompany you on your quest is with a gangster level trap. And the promise of post immigration beers.
You can text your host on WhatsApp and watch for those two blue ticks to appear indicating your message has been read only to get no reply. However instead, we’d suggest you just turn up to your hosts house unannounced and dressed to impress and tell them you’re taking them somewhere fancy for drinks and that they should get equally dressed up and accompany you.
Regardless of which approach you take to get your host to accompany you to immigration, if you don’t turn up with your host they can, and likely will, turn you away.
Paying the Cuba Visa Extension fee
On your way to immigration you will need to pay the renewal fee and have it stamped onto your Tajeta Del Turista, also called a tourist ticket, tourist boleto or tourist card. It’s the card you entered Cuba with and hopefully haven’t lost.
In a bygone era the fee to renew was 25CUC and equivalent to about $25USD. Now, when I did my renewal in November 2021, it was 25CUP and equivalent to less than $1USD. The price can and might fluctuate but should be less than what you paid to get the original Tarjeta Del Turista for entry into Cuba.
Unlike other government processes and establishments in Cuba, you can pay this one in local currency in cash. However, you will need to line up.
If you’re visiting the immigration office in Vedado, you can locate a bank / post office that will accept payments and give you the required stamp in the ground level shops under the FOCSA Building in Vedado.
This lovely 1 star shopping establishment in FOCSA has 3 entry points, but only 1 will be open on any given day. When you’re walking around the outside of the building trying to find the open entry point, beware of the unmarked car sized holes.
These holes drop through the pavement and down to the basement garage below. If you drop 5+ meters into a pit of garbage and broken bottles your time in the amazing Cuban visa race will be over.
When you do get inside the building, you’ll probably encounter lines. On the day we went in November 2021 the line was for chicken. Apparently there was a chicken shortage on the island, despite the island being covered in chickens.
Even the park outside the building had chickens…
Visiting The Cuban Immigration Office
Having selected your armour or attire, recruited your campaign partner and survived all the trials and tribulations so far to reach immigration, you’ll be confronted with the second and more mysterious type of Cuban line.
You and your host will need to walk around playing Marco Polo, asking where the end of the line is while listening for your opponent to declare their whereabouts. Once located, memorise this individual and stay behind them.
Be sure to have your passport, Tarjeta Del Turista, insurance papers and a receipt for your accommodation in hand. When it’s finally time to enter the dreaded immigration officer’s lair you’ll need these items to fend off her fiery verbal assault.
Expect to be asked multiple times to prove your address in Cuba and your insurance coverage. The first can be dealt with by handing her your receipt for accommodation and using your Cuban host as a human shield.
The second, by having either a Cuba specific insurance policy with ‘Cuba’ written all over it. Or a global policy where you just keep saying ‘global’ and ‘whole world’ repeatedly, while still using your host as a human shield.
Once you’ve defeated the dreaded immigration officers questions, your quest is still not finished. She will take your passport and send you and your host back outside to wait longer still.
At this point you’ll be thirsty and quite hungry. As you’ve likely been in lines all day. Don’t call for pizza and beers on Mandao while you’re waiting. They frown on such things.
Thirty minutes to an hour after answering all the immigration officers questions they will reemerge from their lair and hand you back your passport. You’ve survived and successfully finished your quest!
Afterwards | Conclusion
Having successfully renewed your visa it’s now time to make good on the beers and promises you bribed your host with.
You can renew your visa 2 times. So if you’re from a country with a 30 day initial visa, you can stay on the island for a total of 90 days each trip. The renewal process is the same each and every time.
Should the Cuban government make visa renewals digital, taking them online, they could likely save the tourists, casa particular hosts and immigration staff quite a lot of time and paperwork.
If the process was online the Cuban government would also be able to charge higher fees. And use payment processors based overseas and denominated in foreign currency. So only time will tell if this farcical process continues in its current form.
Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?
I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I would strongly advise you to read it before travelling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.
My Complete Guide To Cuba will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared.
Read the most Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba here.