The Obama administration will end the controversial "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allows Cuban citizens who reach American shores to stay in the country.
President Obama said in a statement that the 20-year-old policy was "designed for a different era."
"Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities," Obama said.
"By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea."
The changes are part of the Obama administration's moves to warm diplomatic relations, which have been tense since America's 1958 embargo on the country.
"Since I took office, we have put the Cuban-American community at the center of our policies. With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws," Obama said.
The policy effectively allowed Cubans fleeing their country to qualify for permanent residency if they make it to American shores, or with "dry" feet, even if they do not have a visa or legal authorization to visit the country.