Getting There, Moving There and Staying There

Exploring and Living in Cuba

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Prior to the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba it was very difficult to travel to the country legally.

The Cuban assets control regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction have a license to engage in any transactions related to travel to, from and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist and business travel were not licensable. This restriction included tourist or business travel from or through third countries such as Mexico, Canada, or Caribbean countries.

U.S. citizens had to be licensed by the Department of Treasury in order to travel to Cuba, travel to the country was and is to some extent strictly controlled and only select categories of travellers are licensable.

According the Trading with the Enemy Act Americans who travel to Cuba without a license may be fined $250,000. On top that the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 allows for fines of up to $50,000 for U.S. citizens who visit Cuba illegally.

To qualify for a license to travel to Cuba you had to contact the Licensing Division Of the Office of Foreign Asset Control (U.S. Department of the Treasury), 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Washington, DC 20200. Tel: (202) -622-2480,

However, most U.S. citizens got around these stringent regulations by travelling through a third country like the Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Mexico or Costa Rica. This was risky since you could be fined thousands of dollars if the government chose to prosecute you.

In the past if you did choose to travel to Cuba through a third country, immigration officers in Cuba were aware that a Cuban immigration stamp could cause problems. So knowing this they would stamp your tourist card instead of your passport.


Now Travel is Legal

Fortunately, all of the above is basically a thing of the past. U.S. citizens may now travel to Cuba legally provided that they do so under one of the 12 approved categories:

  1. Family visits

  2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  1. Journalistic activity

  2. Professional research and professional meetings

  3. Educational activities

  4. Religious activities

  5. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

  1. Most U.S. citizens travel to Cuba under “support for Cuban people” (also know as people-to-people).
  2. Humanitarian projects

  3. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  4. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials

  5. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

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Official Guide to Cuban Spanish

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Information herein is authorized through the courtesy of Christopher Howard, author of the best selling Cuba information source, Living and Investing in the New Cuba. Please be aware that all information herein is protected by COPYRIGHT © and misuse of it will carry a penalty by law.