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State Department Answers Cuba Travel Questions Via Twitter

Image: CUBA-USA-EMBASSY

Workers prepare the flagstaff at the US embassy on Havana's waterfront Malecon on August 7, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUEADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP - Getty Images

Just days before it’s scheduled to open its embassy in Havana after more than a half-century of estrangement, the Department of State held a Q&A Twitter session in Spanish Monday afternoon to clear up questions for U.S. citizens and residents seeking to travel to the island.

Questions trickled in from Cuban-Americans in the U.S. as well as some on the island although Internet use in Cuba is restricted and everyday people don’t have access to it.

Secretary of State John Kerry is to be in Cuba this week to officially open the U.S. embassy in Havana. Cuba opened its embassy in Washington, D.C. last month. The embassy openings are part of the thawing of relations between the countries that have been governed until now by Cold War policies. The U.S. has relaxed some restrictions regarding Cuba, but an official embargo and some travel to Cuba is subject to congressional authority.

Some of the questions that dominated the Q&A were related to whether Cuban-born U.S. citizens are still required to travel to the island with Cuban passports.

Cubans who immigrated to the U.S. after 1970 must apply for a Cuban passport even if they are U.S. citizens. Those who left prior to 1970 can use their U.S. passport but must apply for a special visa. These rules will not change with the reopening of the U.S. embassy since entry to the island is regulated by the Cuban government.

Those tweeting from the island asked about when the U.S. embargo on Cuba would be lifted and when U.S. citizens would be able to travel freely as tourists.