(GUYANA CHRONICLE) — He seemed uneasy, fiddling with his mobile phone as he tried his best to understand the Spanish text messages being sent from the other end. His friend sat nearby with a concerned look on his face. And as the morning stretched on, it appeared as if their business meeting with their Cuban friend was off. Dejected, he asked anyone around if they can speak Spanish.
Downtown in this King Street, Georgetown edifice, the marriage officers have been busy fixing arranged marriages, a new trend of foreign nationals, mainly Cubans, seeking a prospective “husband” in Guyana in a business which has been growing annually since 2015.
Outside the building, a woman approaches this reporter. “JP, want a JP?” she asks and willingly provides information on the requirements for processing various documents, even notarised marriage applications.
One marriage officer told the Guyana Chronicle that he has been receiving many requests from local men seeking marriage to the foreigners.
“Since 2014 and early part 2015, they came to my office seeking advice on marriage, but I found out it’s a business,” the man said on condition of anonymity.
At another office, the marriage officer said he processed many applications for the new unions. He said that the foreign women pay as much as US$6000 in the arrangement. “The least they pay is US$4000, because is the locals calling the shots,” he added.
The process by which one obtains a marriage licence in Guyana can be lengthy but straight forward.
First, both parties must fill an application form obtained from the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) and take it to a Justice of the Peace, who will notarize the application.
By requirement, the parties must then submit the completed form along with required documents such as identification cards (passports for foreigners) to the Marriage Section of the General Register Office. A date is then provided for when the licence can be uplifted.
It is then taken by the prospective married couple to the marriage officer who will perform the marriage ceremony.
Cubans do not need visas to travel to Guyana. In November 2016, the Guyana Chronicle reported that some 300 Cubans visit Guyana weekly. By June 2018, the number had more than doubled. At that time, this publication had reported that some 700 Cubans visit these shores every week and are contributing to this country’s economy, a move aimed at strengthening trade between the two nations.
In the past, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge had noted that the Spanish-speaking nationals come here mainly for tourism purposes.
But while many travel here for business and tourism, others come with a wider objective — to obtain immigrant visas.
Cubans have been flocking to Guyana in droves to get such visas ever since Washington decided to transfer the processing of visa applications for Cubans from Colombia to Guyana.
“On April 1, we will begin transferring current immigrant visa applications and scheduling immigrant visa interviews for Cuban nationals at U.S. Embassy Georgetown, Guyana. Guyana will then be the primary site for processing immigrant visa applications for Cubans. The first interviews will take place in June,” the State Department announced in March this year on its website.
Statistics provided by Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix to the bipartisan parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, illustrates that there are no departure records for 7,255 of the 44,747 Cubans who travelled to Guyana last year. And of the 22,520 who entered Guyana from January to April of 2018, a total of 6,170 did not lodge any departure records with immigration authorities.
Along Regent Street and King Street, some Cubans who have taken up jobs here have been capitalising on the relations between the two countries, including in trade. They can be seen outside stores where they act as middlemen for other Cubans doing business here, especially first-timers.
Others make arrangements with local taxi and minibus drivers to transport their fellow countrymen/women to and from the airports. Others meantime, tie up other forms of business, including marriage, the new trend in town.