MLB & Immigration News: Cuban Players Seeking Major League Baseball Career No Longer Need License to Play From US Government
The United States of America and Cuba continue their "normalizing of relations," even on the baseball field.
Cuban baseball players no longer have to obtain a license from the United States Government before seeking a contract with Major League Baseball teams. This is extremely important because players will no longer have to wait as long as they did in the past.
According to a press release by jdsupra.com, Cuban players no longer have to obtain an unblocking license, but instead, they must provide the following sworn statement:
“I have taken up permanent residence outside of Cuba. In addition, I hereby state that I do not intend to, nor would I be welcome to, return to Cuba. Further, I hereby state that I am not a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba … and am not a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party."
The previous process had to run through the United States Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Yoan Moncada has already benefited from the process, having signed a recent contract with the Boston Red Sox. There's a good chance Hector Olivera will get signed sooner rather than later now.
MLB is even considering playing preseason games in Cuba in the near future. There's no reason to believe we won't see regular season games in Cuba in the future as well.
President Obama has been in heavy negotiations with Cuba lately about traveling to the island, doing business with Cuba and fewer restrictions between the two nations. Now that there are far fewer limitations for Cuban baseball players who desire a career in MLB, this could now lead to more careers for Cuban citizens who wish to live in the US.
Of course, MLB is always looking into fraud and ineligible international signings by teams. Latin American territories such as Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic face very harsh screening processes to prove proof of residency and age for amateur signings. However, Mexico and Haiti do not face the same guidelines by MLB because of lack of resources.
Previously, the prototypical young Cuban baseball player living in Cuba seeking an MLB contract would have to apply to OFAC and wait about a year to get a license if lucky. The bottom line is this: the OFAC license process was viewed as a huge time consuming procedure, and a barrier for both MLB teams and the players alike.
Baseball is easily the most popular sport in Cuba today. Some of the most notable players in MLB history hail from the small island nation such as Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, Luis Tiant and Hall of Famer Tony Perez. Multiple players have risked their lives and defected from Cuba such as Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Céspedes and José Abreu. Abreu won the American League Rookie of the Year for the Chicago White Sox last season with 36 home runs.
If the United States and Cuba continue to progress forward like we've never seen before it could have a huge impact. We could see increasing numbers in MLB from Cuban players in the same way we've seen so many skills Latino players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama and other Latin American nations.
Resulting in a win-win situation for all involved, teams and the league would see a huge surge in international talent, and a spike in league diversity that the MLB Players Union is always pushing for. As for Cuban-born players, their dream of playing in the majors can finally come true in the land of opportunity.