Communist Cuba has eased but not ended wildly unpopular 14-year-old restrictions on people moving from the provinces to Havana, according to a decree published Tuesday.
The only single party regime in the Americas has argued that the rules were necessary, in the country of 11 million, to limit migration to the crowded capital of 2.1 million, plagued by severe shortages of water, housing, transport and jobs.
Former president Fidel Castro signed the domestic migration decree in 1997, setting a list of onerous requirements for people living outside the capital to meet if they wanted to relocate to Havana.
The restrictions, which amounted effectively to a ban, has been defied by thousands seeking a better life in Cuba's largest city.
Tuesday's decree, signed by his younger brother President Raul Castro, says the reasons behind the original decree had not changed.
But it amended the existing rules to include exceptions for spouses, children, parents, grandparents and grandchildren of those who own property in Havana, as well as a homeowner's spouse's minor children, and the handicapped.
Under the 1997 decree, authorities in Havana returned thousands of people back to their home provinces every year.
Since 2006 Raul Castro's government has ended several unpopular restrictions. Among other things Cubans are now allowed to rent rooms in hotels geared to international tourism, sign cell phone contracts, and buy appliances (a government energy saving measure).
In September, the government authorized Cubans to buy and sell cars, and this month homes.
Cubans are extremely keen for the government to eliminate its onerous restrictions on travel abroad.
If Havana makes that move, it could be a stunning wake-up call to the United States, which as part of held-over Cold War policy, still grants any Cuban who reaches US soil legal US residency on request. The United States does not have this policy for nationals of any other country.