Cuba announces new migration policies as exodus continues

People wait in line to enter the U.S. embassy in Havana

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba announced on Tuesday measures that ease restrictions on its citizens living abroad as the communist-run nation continues to grapple with an unprecedented exodus of migrants to the United States.

The foreign ministry said passports would be valid for 10 years, instead of six, for Cubans over 16 years of age, and cut by more than half the costs associated with renewing the travel documents off-island.

The ministry also eliminated a requirement that Cubans pay a fee every two years, even before their passports expired, to maintain their active status.

The new rules take effect on July 1, said Ernesto Soberon, director of Consular Affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry. He said the measures are focused on "the strengthening of ties with the Cuban community abroad."

Cuba for decades limited emigration of its citizens, and many Cubans living abroad complain of bureaucratic hurdles and exorbitant fees for maintaining ties and renewing travel documents with their home country.

More than 300,000 Cubans arrived at the U.S. border last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data, a record-breaking exodus amid an unprecedented economic crisis.

The migration off the island has further stressed the country's already near collapsed economy and weighs heavily on Cuban society, with many families broken and scattered across the globe.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Bill Berkrot)