Which is Right for You?
Contributor: Sarah Arizaga
The Biden Administration announced in May 2022 that they were once again allowing the general license category of People to People (P2P) group travel, a category eliminated by the Trump Administration in 2019. General licenses permit US citizens and residents to travel legally to Cuba for certain reasons that do not require prior approval from the US government.
Although many think that this change has made Cuba travel once again legal for US travelers, prior to this change it was legal and easy to visit Cuba under Support for the Cuban People (SCP). Here we compare Support for the Cuban People with People to People so you can understand the similarities and differences between these general license categories.
Both Categories Require a Full Schedule
Because “tourism” is not allowed in Cuba due to the US’ embargo restrictions, the US government expects you to travel for a purpose and thus places limits on your “free time”. Full-time is generally considered 6-8 hours daily. For both categories, how you must spend your time is almost exactly the same.
SCP and P2P travel must be for the purpose of engaging in a “Full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities” further:
SCP: “Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule that results in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.”
P2P: “Each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.”
The only difference is the educational component of P2P tours. Considering that there are a wide-range of activities considered “educational” this means that both types of travel could have the same activities. Also, this full schedule doesn’t mean you won’t be having fun. Cocktail making, dancing, art gallery visits, these are all things that could qualify under either category.
Group vs Individual Travel
P2P tours are only permitted for Group Travel and that travel has to be sponsored by a US organization. If a non-US company is providing the tour, it has to be in conjunction with a US entity. Traveling as an individual under P2P used to be legal under Obama but Trump removed that category and it seems Biden has no intention of bringing it back. On a P2P tour, all participants are automatically traveling legally to Cuba, and it’s the sponsoring entity that is responsible for following the regulations.
SCP is for individuals, meaning that you can choose to travel on your own or you can take a group tour either with a foreign company or a US company. A guided tour with an experienced provider will always be the best and easiest way to visit Cuba, no matter where you’re from, but especially for US travelers. Each individual is responsible for their own compliance with the regulations, the whole tour is not under the general license umbrella like it would be with P2P.
One of the most limiting factors of a P2P tour is that the US organization has to send a representative to be your chaperone on the tour. Their job is to ensure you participate in the itinerary, so you can’t decline an activity and do something else. That also means you can’t stay after the tour, or arrive earlier, because the chaperone has to be with you at all times. The chaperone will document the tour and you can rely on that documentation in the unlikely event that your trip is audited by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Since SCP is a category for individuals, there is no chaperone requirement. If you are on an SCP tour, you are responsible for maintaining documentation to prove that you were complying with the general license (keep it for five years). You can stay as long as you want, subject only to Cuba’s visa restrictions.
SCP Allows for More Freedom
SCP travel gives you flexibility to do what you want relative to the limits imposed by the “full-schedule” requirement. It works best for people wanting to join a group tour but still have some say in their trip plans, or for those that want to travel completely independently. There is no category of general license that is “more legal” than any other, so you don’t need to worry that SCP is not as strong as P2P.
P2P tours are better for travel organized by an entity or organization, such as school groups (non-academic visits), choirs, churches, clubs, businesses or associations because it’s easier to have one person maintain the records for everyone than for each person to maintain their own.
Which Category Do We Use?
Cuban Adventures provides tours that are SCP compliant which takes the guess work out of visiting Cuba legally, since they include a full itinerary of fun and compliant activities. We don’t foresee the need to offer P2P tours again because we believe it’s better for our travelers to have some flexibility during their time in Cuba. However, if you’d like to organize a private or custom tour under the P2P category, we can easily provide one.
How to Travel Freely to Cuba
These rules are unique to Cuba, there is no other country where the US government limits what people can do on their vacation. The restrictions are part of a 60-year embargo put in place to encourage the people of Cuba to overthrow their government through subjecting them to extreme economic pressure. If you would like to visit Cuba as a tourist, contact your elected officials to voice your disapproval of these limits on your freedoms.