Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is based on industry practices and standard interpretations of OFAC rules and does not constitute legal advice. For more information call OFAC at 202-622-2480
NOTICE REGARDING TRUMP'S NEW CUBA POLICY (updated 9/28/17):
Many of you are concerned about how the new policy will affect your travel to Cuba. Please note- THIS POLICY IS NOT IN EFFECT. As of now there are NO CHANGES. Until the Office of Foreign Assets Control announces the new regulations and effective dates, it is business as usual- reports say this could be as soon as December 2017 or as late as March 2018. Please see their FAQ page for additional information - here we summarize key points of the new regulations (not yet in effect).
1) If you made at least one travel-related transaction (e.g. paid for a tour, airfare, accommodations) prior to June 16, 2017 your trip (and all related future transactions) will be exempt from the new regulations when they go into effect (see #4 on the OFAC FAQ page). IF YOU BOOKED A TOUR PRIOR TO JUNE 16 2017 ONLY THE OBAMA REGULATIONS APPLY TO YOUR TRAVEL. Please ignore items 2) and 3) below- they do not apply to your travel.
2) The new regulations will eliminate the "People to People for Individuals" general license, they are not going to affect any other category (see below for categories). If you want to travel under P2P you will have to go with a group and a US chaperone will be there to ensure you participate in activities. It is expected OFAC will start to enforce these regulations whereas in the past they have not. Once the new regulations are in effect, our P2P tours will have the chaperone necessary to comply.
3) You will not be able to stay in hotels or eat in restaurants owned by the military.
For more information you can also read the White House announcement here
How to Travel with a General License
Travel with a general license is easy! You do not need to submit an application to a government agency, it is simply a matter of stating that your travel is legal under one of the 12 categories of allowable travel to Cuba. Make sure that you are not violating the law by parking yourself at an all-inclusive though; you must have a meaningful purpose for your visit to Cuba.
The Trump administration's changes to Cuba travel rules only effect the People to People category 515.565 (b). Once the regulations go into effect (possibly by September), you will be required to travel with a group and a US chaperone. To travel under this category, here is what you will need to comply with the law (effective until September 2017):
- A full schedule of educational activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.
- Records of travel transactions and your full schedule of activities while in Cuba. You must maintain these records for 5 years.
- A letter or affidavit that states that your category of travel is people to people. This is completely optional and not required by the law, but may help you feel more comfortable going through US immigration in case you are asked to show documentation.
You can read examples of what is and is not acceptable under People to People here
The easiest way to meet these requirements is on one of our people to people tours. These tours have set itineraries with meaningful interactions with locals so you don't need to hassle with creating and documenting one of your own. In addition, these tours include activities and many meals, which means you won't have to bring as much cash since your ATM/Credit cards don't work in Cuba. Aside from making your travel easier, our tours are just plain FUN, with diverse itineraries that appeal to all ages and interests!
For more information on people to people travel visit the OFAC FAQ (updated Oct 14, 2016) page here
If you prefer to travel under a different category of general license here is how to do it:
Step 1: Pick Your Category
Here are most of the categories of legal Cuba travel for the general license, ordered from most common to least common. For full description of the categories click the link to visit the OFAC website.
Professional research or attending professional meetings directly relating to the traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise. Professional research can include making a documentary film. (§515.564)
Educational activities for college, university and secondary school faculty, staff, students, and chaperones. Academic research specifically relating to Cuba and for the purpose of a graduate or undergraduate degree. Faculty and staff can visit Cuba independently to research and prepare for student trips. Note: This generally requires a formal course of study, so just taking Spanish lessons wouldn't qualify. This category also includes non-academic people to people travel (§515.565)
Religious organizations, and their members and staff who are engaging in a full-schedule of religious activities (§515.566)
Support for the Cuban people by human rights organizations, independent organizations, individuals, and NGOs. (§515.574)
Journalistic activities for journalists who are employed by news reporting organizations or supporting broadcast or technical personnel or freelance journalist with a record of previous experience who is working on a journalistic project. ( §515.563)
Visiting a relative or family member in Cuba, or the relative of someone you live with as family, or accompanying a close family member that is traveling under §515.562 (official government business), §515.563 (journalistic activity), §515.564(a) (professional research), §515.565(a)(1) through (4) and (6) (educational activities), §515.566 (religious activities), §515.575 (humanitarian projects), or §515.576 (activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes) (§515.561)
Humanitarian projects such as medical or health related projects, construction projects, environmental projects, formal or non-formal educational training, etc. (§515.575)
Participation in public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions, and athletic and other competitions. (§515.567)
Business visits for exportation and importation of telecommunications and internet hardware and services, and exportation of agricultural products. (§515.545)
Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes. (§ 515.576)
Official business of government employees and organizations (§515.562)
Step 2: Create Your License
To create your license, you can either go online and find a generic affidavit to fill out (many Miami charter flight companies have these online), or you can write a letter with the following information:
- Dates of travel
- High level purpose of travel
- Specific category of general license (use the code citation)
- Signature and date.
You do not need it to be notarized. While the regulations don't have specific documentation requirements- there is no actual paper "license" per se, it may be difficult to explain that to a customs official who asks to see it. It is better to have some paper to show them, and this letter or affidavit should be sufficient.
As of September 21, 2015, families (either by blood or by household) can travel together as long as one member qualifies under the general license for Professional Research, Journalistic Activity, Religious Activities, Educational Activities, and Humanitarian projects. If you are not traveling as family, each individual in your party (even children!) must qualify for a general license on their own, meaning that if you are traveling for journalistic purposes and your friends are not, they are not legally traveling to Cuba.
Step 3: Document Your Travel
OFAC requires that you maintain specific records of your travel to Cuba, regardless of whether you are traveling under a license or not, and to keep these records for 5 years in the (highly unlikely!) event that OFAC requests to see them. Hang on to any documents relating to transactions or purchases you make relating to your trip to Cuba (e.g. receipts for flights or accommodations), along with any itineraries and other support for your purpose for travel.
Step 4: Return to the US
You don't need to worry about showing your license anywhere except the US when returning from your trip. Other countries aren't in the practice of enforcing the US travel embargo, so don't expect anyone in Cuba, Mexico, Canada, etc. to have any idea of what you're talking about if you mention the license. When you fill out your customs/immigration form when returning home, you can write "Cuba (under general license xxx.xxx)" in the "Countries Visited" section. Most of the time they don't even look at these forms, but if you are asked where you've been, you can freely admit that you were in Cuba. You only need to show your license if an official asks to see it. It would be very rare for them to ask to see your license, unless you are bringing back tobacco. If you received a passport stamp in Cuba, don't worry- you are traveling legally!
Check out the OFAC website for more information.
Traveling on an individual General License? Our regular groups tours offer plenty of freedom for you to pursue your general license activities while providing a foundation for a hassle-free travel. Whether you travel independently or on one of our other tours, we can provide flights, transportation, accommodations, guide services, and day tours to make your trip to Cuba easier and more enjoyable. See our tours and services here.
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