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Travel information for US citizens

As of current regulations, you do not need to submit an application to OFAC, or other government agency, it is simply a matter of stating that your travel is legal under one of the 12 categories of licensed travel to Cuba. Make sure that your visit has a meaningful purpose in Cuba. 

The easiest of these categories is People to People Travel 515.565 (b).  To travel under this category, here is what you will need to comply with the law:

  1. 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. 
  2. Records of travel transactions and your full schedule of activities while in Cuba. You must maintain these records for 5 years.
  3. 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. 

 

Most of our programs are licensed tours, please check with us if you have doubt.

 

OFAC update as of October 14, 2016:

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS RELATED TO CUBA

This document is explanatory only, does not have the force of law, and does not supplement or modify the Executive Orders, statutes, or regulations relating to Cuba. Where specific questions arise about applicability, scope, impact, or any other aspects of these sanctions, it is the responsibility of individuals or entities seeking guidance to review the relevant statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders, and, if appropriate, consult with legal counsel.

For questions regarding travel and accompanied baggage between the United States and Cuba, see the specific guidance on OFAC’s webpage.

 

Current regulations indicate that a person traveling to Cuba under a General License, may do so "without needing to write in to OFAC for a letter of specific authorization" 

 

What are the travel authorizations in the Cuba program?

OFAC has issued general licenses within the 12 categories of authorized travel for many travelrelated transactions to, from, or within Cuba that previously required a specific license (i.e., an application and a case-by-case determination). Travel-related transactions are permitted by general license for certain travel related to the following activities, subject to the criteria and conditions in each general license: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.

 

Do travelers who fall within the scope of a general license need to submit a written request to OFAC for permission to travel or conduct transactions?

No. No further permission from OFAC is required to engage in transactions by a person who meets all criteria in a general license. Individuals wishing to engage in activities that may fall within the scope of a general license should review the relevant general licenses contained in the CACR to determine whether their travel-related transactions are covered by such general licenses. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction who wish to engage in any travel within the 12 categories of activities specified in the CACR that does not meet the requirements of a general license will need to apply for a specific license from OFAC.

 

Is travel to Cuba for tourist activities permitted?

No. Consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), travel-related transactions involving Cuba are only permitted for the 12 categories of activities identified in the CACR. Travel-related transactions for other purposes remain prohibited.

 

What constitutes “a close relative” for generally authorized family travel?

OFAC regulations generally authorize persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and those sharing a dwelling with them as a family to visit a close relative in Cuba, including a close relative who is a Cuban national or a person ordinarily resident in Cuba, or to visit or accompany a close relative who is located in or traveling to Cuba pursuant to the authorizations in § 515.562 (official UPDATED OCTOBER 14, 2016 3 government business), § 515.563 (journalistic activity), § 515.564 (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). A close relative is defined as any individual related to a person “by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person.” For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.339 and § 515.561.

 

Who is generally authorized to engage in travel and travel-related transactions for “journalistic activity”?

OFAC has issued an expanded general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to journalistic activities in Cuba. Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, full-time journalists, supporting broadcast or technical personnel, and freelance journalists to travel to Cuba. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule. An entire group does not qualify for the general license merely because some members of the group qualify individually. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.563.

 

What constitutes generally authorized travel-related transactions for “professional research” and “professional meetings” in Cuba?

OFAC has issued an expanded general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to professional research in Cuba. Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, professional research in Cuba relating to a traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule. An entire group does not qualify for the general license merely because some members of the group qualify individually. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.564. OFAC has issued an expanded general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to attendance at, or organization of, professional meetings in Cuba. Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, attendance at professional meetings or conferences in Cuba relating to a traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise, as well as organization of such meetings by a traveler whose profession is related to the organization of professional meetings or conferences or who is an employee or contractor of an entity that is organizing the professional meeting or conference. Travel in this category is generally licensed provided that the traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule. An entire group does not qualify for the general license merely because some members of the group qualify individually. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.564.

 

What constitutes “educational activities” for generally authorized travel and other transactions?

UPDATED OCTOBER 14, 2016 4 OFAC has issued an expanded general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, transactions, including travel-related transactions, that are related to certain educational activities involving Cuba or Cuban nationals. Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, faculty, staff, and students at U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools to engage in certain educational activities, including study abroad programs, in Cuba, Cuban scholars to engage in certain educational activities in the United States, and certain activities to facilitate licensed educational programs. U.S. and Cuban universities may engage in academic exchanges and joint non-commercial academic research under the general license. This provision also authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to provide standardized testing services and certain internet-based courses to Cuban nationals. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.565(a). See also the FAQs below for additional information on educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program and that promote people-to-people contact, as well as on the provision of grants, scholarships, or awards to a Cuban national or in which Cuba or a Cuban national otherwise has an interest for educational and other purposes.

 

Are secondary schools and secondary school students permitted to engage in travel-related transactions under the general license for “educational activities”?

Yes. Educational exchanges, including study abroad programs, sponsored by Cuban or U.S. secondary schools involving secondary school students’ participation in a formal course of study or in a structured educational program offered by a secondary school or other academic institution, and led by a teacher or other secondary school official, are authorized under this general license. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.565(a)(6). This provision allows for participation of a reasonable number of adult chaperones to accompany the secondary school student(s) to Cuba.

 

What constitutes “people-to-people travel” for generally authorized travel?

OFAC has issued a general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to people-to-people educational activities in Cuba. Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in certain educational exchanges in Cuba either individually or under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sponsors such exchanges to promote people-topeople contact. Travelers utilizing this general license must ensure they maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange 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. The predominant portion of the activities must not be with a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba, as defined in 31 CFR § 515.337, or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party, as defined in 31 CFR § 515.338. For travel conducted under the auspices of an organization, an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization must accompany each group traveling to Cuba to ensure that each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities. In addition, persons relying upon this authorization must retain records related to the authorized travel transactions, including records demonstrating a full-time schedule of authorized activities. In the case of an individual traveling under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, the individual may rely on the entity sponsoring the travel to satisfy his or her recordkeeping obligations with respect to the requirements described above. For UPDATED OCTOBER 14, 2016 5 a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.565(b).

 

What is an “organization” in the people–to-people context?

In the people-to-people context, an organization is an entity subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors educational exchanges that do not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program and that promote people-to-people contact. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.565(b). 15. Who is generally authorized to engage in travel-related transactions for “religious activities”? OFAC has issued an expanded general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to religious activities in Cuba. All persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, including religious organizations located in the United States and members and staff of such organizations, are generally authorized to engage in travel-related transactions that are directly incident to engaging in religious activities in Cuba provided, among other things, that the travel must be for the purpose of engaging in a program of religious activities. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule in Cuba. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.566.

 

What constitutes “public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions” for generally authorized travel?

OFAC has issued an expanded general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to organization of and participation in amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions as well as other athletic and other competitions and public performances, clinics, workshops, and exhibitions in Cuba. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.567.

 

What constitutes “support for the Cuban people” for generally authorized travel and other transactions?

OFAC has issued a general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, which include activities of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule in Cuba. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.574.

 

What constitutes “humanitarian projects” for generally authorized transactions, including travel-related transactions?

UPDATED OCTOBER 14, 2016 6 OFAC has issued a general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, transactions, including travel-related transactions, that are related to humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba. These authorized humanitarian projects are: medical and health-related projects; construction projects intended to benefit legitimately independent civil society groups; disaster preparedness, relief, and response; historical preservation; environmental projects; projects involving formal or non-formal educational training, within Cuba or off-island, on the following topics: entrepreneurship and business, civil education, journalism, advocacy and organizing, adult literacy, or vocational skills; communitybased grassroots projects; projects suitable to the development of small-scale private enterprise; projects that are related to agricultural and rural development that promote independent activity; microfinancing projects, except for loans, extensions of credit, or other financing prohibited by 31 CFR § 515.208; and projects to meet basic human needs. For persons traveling pursuant to this authorization, the traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule in Cuba. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.575.

 

What constitutes “activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes” for generally authorized travel?

OFAC has issued a general license that incorporates previous specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to activities by private foundations or research or educational institutes with an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba for noncommercial purposes, among other things. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule in Cuba. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.576. Additionally, effective March 16, 2016, OFAC expanded an existing general license to authorize private foundations or research or educational institutes engaging in authorized transactions to establish a physical presence in Cuba, such as an office. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.573(b).

 

What constitutes “exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials” for generally authorized travel?

Effective January 16, 2015, OFAC issued a general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to the exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule in Cuba. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.545(b)(1). Additionally, effective January 27, 2016, OFAC has issued a general license that authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to professional media or artistic productions of information or informational materials for exportation, importation, or transmission, including the filming or production of media programs (such as movies and television programs), the recording of music, and the creation of artworks in Cuba, provided that the traveler is regularly employed in or has demonstrated professional experience in a field relevant to such professional media or artistic productions. The traveler’s UPDATED OCTOBER 14, 2016 7 schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.545(b)(2). The definition of “information and informational materials” may be found at 31 CFR § 515.332.

 

What are examples of a full-time schedule of activities for authorized travelers?

Authorized travelers to Cuba pursuant to most general license categories are expected to maintain a full-time schedule of activities consistent with the terms of the general license(s) they are traveling pursuant to. For example:

- An individual traveling to Cuba for four days pursuant to the authorization for professional research and professional meetings (31 CFR § 515.564(a)), such as a professional architect, could participate in a two-day conference on Cuban architecture that directly relates to the traveler’s profession, followed by one day of meetings with Cuban nationals engaging in historical preservation of colonial and baroque buildings in Havana. The following day the traveler could engage in a full day of site visits and fact-finding around Havana at key architectural sites.

- An individual traveling pursuant to the authorization for journalistic activities could engage in three full days of interviews with local residents, followed by one full day of follow up investigative research at local institutions.

- An individual traveling to Cuba for four days pursuant to the authorization for professional research and professional meetings (31 CFR § 515.564(a)), such as a professional architect, could engage in the aforementioned meetings and research and add on one additional day of individual people-to-people travel that includes a full-time schedule of meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba and otherwise meets the requirements of 31 CFR § 515.565(b). Such meaningful interaction could include, for example, a full-day of discussions with Cuban artists on community projects, exchanges with the founders of a youth arts program, and/or extended dialogue with local city planners and architects to learn about historical restoration projects in Old Havana.  

 

Can I purchase a ticket to Cuba directly from an airline based or operating out of the United States?

Yes, provided that you are authorized to travel to Cuba pursuant to an OFAC general or specific license. Airlines and travelers are responsible for maintaining records of their Cuba-related transactions for at least five years.

 

May a person that qualifies for the general license to provide carrier services transport a third-country national located in the United States to Cuba for travel authorized by a general license under one of the 12 categories of travel listed in Section 515.560 or by specific license from OFAC?

Yes.

May I take a commercial passenger ferry to travel to Cuba?

Yes, provided that you are authorized to travel to Cuba pursuant to a general or specific license. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to provide carrier services by vessel to authorized travelers, and travelers may purchase tickets provided that their travel is authorized pursuant to the CACR. The authorization to provide carrier services is limited to transportation UPDATED OCTOBER 14, 2016 8 of authorized travelers, directly or indirectly, between the United States and Cuba. Vessel operators and travelers are responsible for maintaining records of their Cuba-related transactions for at least five years. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.572.

 

May an individual authorized traveler use his or her private boat to travel to Cuba?

A person subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in authorized travel pursuant to an OFAC general or specific license may use a personal boat for his or her travel to Cuba provided that the temporary sojourn of the vessel is authorized by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), and provided that he or she otherwise complies with all other applicable U.S. government laws and regulations. Goods exported to Cuba also require a license or must be eligible for a license exception from BIS. See additional guidance on the OFAC website titled Guidance Regarding Travel Between the United States and Cuba.

 

Are U.S. vessels, including private boats and commercial passenger ferries, permitted to carry passengers to or from Cuba?

OFAC has issued a general license authorizing the provision of carrier services between the United States and Cuba, directly or indirectly, by vessel, in addition to the existing authorization for provision of such services by aircraft. Those providing carrier services between the United States and Cuba may require additional authorizations from other U.S. government agencies. Goods exported to Cuba may also require separate authorization from BIS.

 

May vessels transporting authorized travelers to Cuba provide lodging services?

Yes. Section 515.572(a)(4) of the CACR permits persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction providing authorized carrier services by vessel to also provide lodging for authorized travelers onboard during the period of time the vessel is traveling to, from, or within Cuba, including when docked in a port in Cuba.

 

Are authorized U.S. travelers permitted to travel onboard vessels in Cuba to meet their transportation needs within Cuba?

Travel onboard a vessel in Cuba is permitted for authorized travel.

 

Are there any spending limits for authorized U.S. travelers while in Cuba?

There is no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses. Authorized travelers may engage in transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and the acquisition in Cuba of goods for personal consumption there. In addition, travelers are authorized to acquire in Cuba and import as accompanied baggage into the United States merchandise for personal use only. Effective October 17, 2016, the prior limitations on the value of such imports has been removed. Such imports remain subject to the normal limits on duty and tax exemptions for merchandise imported as accompanied baggage and for personal use.

 

Are there any restrictions on what foreign persons entering the United States from travel that included Cuba may bring in their accompanied baggage?

A non-U.S. person (i.e. not a U.S. citizen or resident) arriving in the United States is authorized to import Cuban-origin merchandise, including tobacco and alcohol, as accompanied baggage UPDATED OCTOBER 14, 2016 9 provided the merchandise is not in commercial quantities and not imported for resale. See 31 CFR § 515.569.

 

Can I purchase Cuban-origin cigars and/or Cuban-origin rum or other alcohol while traveling in Cuba?

Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption. Authorized travelers may also return to the United States with alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba as accompanied baggage for personal use. OFAC considers “personal use” of an imported item to include giving the item to another individual as a personal gift, but not the transfer of the item to another person for payment or other consideration.

 

Can I purchase Cuban-origin cigars and/or Cuban-origin rum or other Cuban-origin alcohol while in a third country (i.e. not Cuba)?

Yes, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may purchase or acquire Cuban-origin merchandise, including alcohol and tobacco products, while in a third country for personal consumption. Such products may be consumed while in a third country, or imported into the United States as accompanied baggage for personal use only. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.585(c) and (d).

 

As an authorized traveler, may I travel from a third country to Cuba and from Cuba to a third country?

Yes, a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in authorized travel-related transactions may travel to Cuba from a third country or to a third country from Cuba. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to and from Cuba via a third country may only do so if their travel-related transactions are authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, and such travelers are subject to the same restrictions and requirements as persons traveling directly from the United States.

 

May crew or other personnel involved in the operation of aircraft or vessels transporting authorized travelers to Cuba remain in Cuba along with the aircraft or vessel?

Yes. Effective January 27, 2016, the general license authorizing travel-related transactions incident to the exportation or reexportation of authorized goods includes travel-related and such other transactions directly incident to the facilitation of the temporary sojourn of aircraft and vessels authorized by the Department of Commerce for travel between the United States and Cuba and that are transporting other authorized travelers. This authorization includes travelrelated transactions by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction who are required for normal operation and service on board a vessel or aircraft or who are required to provide services to a vessel in port or aircraft on the ground. Travel-related transactions by such persons must be limited to the duration and scope of their duties in relation to the particular authorized temporary sojourn. For a complete description of what the OFAC general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.533(c)(2).

 


We also suggest you read the actual Regulation directly on OFAC's website at:  OFAC website

 

Traveling to Cuba without a licence

However we do not suggest travelling to Cuba without the OFAC license in case you are under US jurisdiction, here are some examples:

Many U.S. citizens travel to Cuba without a license, through third country. Such countries include the Bahamas, Canada and Mexico. The Bahamas and Canada have U.S. Customs Pre-Clearance facilities at many of their airports.

Via the Bahamas

From Nassau, Aerogaviota and Bahamasair offer flights to Havana several days of the week. This is the cheapest and quickest route flying direct to Havana, especially for those living in the South Florida area.

Via Canada

A common practice for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba via Canada is a two-leg flight: a flight booking for a flight to (and from) Canada and then a separate booking for the flight to (and from) Cuba. The two legs must be booked separately, as airlines such as Air Canada prohibit the booking of U.S. origin passengers to Cuba. Alternately, one could drive or be driven across the border and dropped off in a Canadian city, and proceed to depart from there. This is more easily done for people near Detroit or New York, as non-stop flights to Havana depart from either Montreal or Toronto.

Via Mexico

Mexico is considered safer and is probably the most popular. You could enter Mexico by using a birth certificate + US ID upon returning from Cuba (this is allowed under Mexican law for US citizens and only one Mexican entry stamp will be stamped in your passport). If so you will only have one stamp on your passport.

U.S. citizens also travel via countries without U.S. customs stations: Guatemala, Venezuela, Panama, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Haiti, etc.

By boat

There are no regular ferries or boats to Cuba from foreign ports, and no cruise lines visit Cuba. Yachters are expected to anchor at the public marinas. Also, most ports are closed and tourists are not permitted to walk around them. Private vessels may enter at Marina Hemingway in Havana or Marina Darsena, Marina Gaviota  in Varadero. Entry requires a U.S. passport, but there are no visa requirements. Your passport will not be stamped by Cuban authorities unless you request it.