Restrictions on Travel to Cuba
United States citizens remain restricted from traveling to Cuba. For instance, traveling to Cuba solely for tourism or vacations remains strictly prohibited. However, there are exceptions in the government regulations. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) allows travel to Cuba via either a general license or a specific license. In order to travel to Cuba on a general license, a U.S. citizen must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel enumerated in 31 CFR § 515.560. The categories include such activities as family visits, educational activities religious activities, and “Support for the Cuban People.” “Support for the Cuban People” is one of the most familiar and applicable general license categories for travel to Cuba.
Travel to Cuba for the purpose of “Support for the Cuban People” is described and clarified by 31 CFR § 515.574, which requires that three criteria are met. First, the activities in Cuba must be carried out by human rights organizations, organizations designed to promote a transition to democracy, or organizations intending to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Second, each traveler must be engaged in activities that enhance contact with Cubans, support civil society or promote Cuban independence. Finally, the traveler’s schedule must not include more free time or recreation than would be expected of a full-time schedule.
Fortunately, none of the 12 general license categories require any sort of official approval or filing of a permit application with the OFAC. The licensing process is one of self-certification. A traveler simply creates a statement of the category that applies; this could be an affidavit or just a letter. When an activity does not meet the criteria for a general license, a traveler can apply for a specific license from OFAC by submitting an application and awaiting approval from OFAC.
If a traveler’s activities conform to the regulatory requirements prescribed by 31 CFR § 515.574, the traveler should not have any issues returning to the United States after traveling to Cuba. Though the Trump administration has recently unveiled sanctions against Cuba, these sanctions will not impact the “Support for the Cuban People” program.
Not all countries operate under the same restraints. Canada does not impose similar travel restrictions on travel to Cuba, for instance. Canadians need not worry about categories of authorized travel or meeting the correct criteria for the purpose of their trip. They are free to travel to Cuba with little restraint.
If you are considering a trip to Cuba and you have questions or concerns about the process, please do not hesitate to contact Berardi Immigration Law today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys!