The Canadian embassy in Havana is seen in 2018. Both U.S and Canadian officials reported strange health symptoms somewhat similar to concussions starting in late 2016. (Canadian Press)

Some visa services restored in Havana

There’s finally a bit of movement for Canadians and Cubans forced to deal with the Canadian Embassy in Havana, vastly downsized because of a still-unsolved illness that struck Canadian and U.S. diplomats almost two years ago.

After months of pushback and pleas, the embassy is reinstating some visa and biometric services that will make things faster and easier for some visa applicants.

But rules forcing applicants seeking permanent resident visas remain in place, forcing Cubans to travel outside the country for any required medical exams or interviews.

Many of those applicants have spouses waiting for them in Canada but lack the necessary funds to leave Cuba.

Visitors wait at the embassy in Havana. Permanent resident applicants to will still have to travel to a third country for any required medical exams or interviews. (Desmond Boylan/Associated Press)

Since Cubans almost always require travel permits to enter other countries, they still must obtain a second visa just to complete the process for their Canadian applications.

As of Thursday, Cuban residents will again be able to get the fingerprints and photos needed for applications done at the embassy, as well as drop off passports and pick up visas in Havana.

In January, the embassy was reduced to a skeletal staff because of a still-unexplained illness that left diplomats dizzy and nauseated.

Then in May, the embassy said it would no longer process applications for visitor and residence visas or work and study permits because of the staff cuts, angering Cuba.

Following a meeting with Cuban officials in June, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the shrinking of the embassy staff was not a political decision.

“I have real sympathy for the Canadians and the Cubans who are facing some real difficulties as a result of this situation,” Freeland said.

With files from CBC, RCI, Huffington Post

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