KEEP CALM AND GO TO CUBA, it's still legal!

OFAC has issued the new regulations with an effective date of November 9, 2017. Please see their FAQ page for additional information - here we summarize key points of the new regulations.

  1. If you made at least one travel-related transaction (e.g. paid for a tour, airfare, accommodations) prior to June 16th, your trip (and all related future transactions) will be exempt from the new regulations. IF YOU BOOKED A TOUR PRIOR TO JUNE 16, 2017 ONLY THE OBAMA REGULATIONS APPLY TO YOUR TRAVEL. Please ignore items  below- they do not apply to your travel.
  2. The new regulations eliminate the "People to People (P2P) for Individuals" general license, however, P2P is still legal with a chaperoned group tour sponsored by a US organization. If you prefer to travel without a chaperone (which is not the same as a guide) these activities are still legal under SUPPORT FOR THE CUBAN PEOPLE (see bullet 4)
  3. You will not be able to stay in hotels or eat in restaurants or purchase other services from companies owned by the military. Please see the list of prohibited entities here.
  4. Independent travel IS STILL LEGAL under Support for the Cuban People (SCP) provided that you:
    1. Use privately owned businesses (e.g. Bed & Breakfasts, private restaurants),
    2. Maintain a full schedule (6-8 hrs daily) of meaningful interactions that "Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities"  (e.g. supporting local artists and entrepreneurs, interacting with your hosts, volunteer work, dance lessons, guided cultural/historical tours)
    3. Do not have transactions with these prohibited entities
    4. Document your activities and transactions and maintain the records for 5 years

Click HERE to read the regulations and see OFAC's examples of what is appropriate under this category.

See the "How to Travel with the General License" section below, for the documentation you will need.

Our chaperoned tours sponsored by our US office are appropriate under P2P, all of our tours without chaperones are appropriate under Support for the Cuban People as long as you maintain the required documentation. Please be aware that if you are not on a P2P tour you are solely responsible for complying with the regulations.

How to Travel with a General License

Travel with a general license is easy! You DO NOT 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.

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 visit the OFAC website.

  1. Support for the Cuban people by human rights organizations, independent organizations, individuals, and NGOs. This is the category that allows individuals to travel legally, as long as they use private businesses and maintain a full schedule of meaningful activities (§515.574). See previous section for examples of this category.
  2. Educational activities. Section (a) is 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. Section (b) is for non-academic people to people travel on chaperoned group tours (§515.565).
  3. Religious organizations, and their members and staff who are engaging in a full-schedule of religious activities (§515.566)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. Humanitarian projects such as medical or health related projects, construction projects, environmental projects, formal or non-formal educational training, etc. (§515.575)
  8. Participation in public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions, and athletic and other competitions. (§515.567)
  9. Business visits for exportation and importation of telecommunications and internet hardware and services, and exportation of agricultural products. (§515.545)
  10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes. (§ 515.576)
  11. 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 to Cuba 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 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 to Cuba, transportation, accommodations, guide services, and day tours to make your trip to Cuba easier and more enjoyable. See our tours and services here.