Changes to Cuba Travel, Trade Policy

June 16, 2017

New restrictions on trade and travel to the island. Here are the main provisions affecting the travel industry:

Prohibition on Individual People-to-People Travel: Americans traveling under the educational “people-to-people” license will have to do so as part of a licensed tour group, as was the case before last year. In March 2016, the requirement that “people-to-people” educational travel be conducted under the auspices of an organization that sponsors such exchanges (i.e. packaged tours), meaning Americans could undertake that travel on their own.

No Transactions with Companies Controlled by Cuban Military: The directive institutes a broad prohibition on financial transactions with companies significantly controlled by the Communist government’s military, its subsidiaries or affiliated companies, and certain other state-controlled entities. According to a POLITICO article, “the business arm of the Cuban military that controls a vast swath of the country’s economy, including most of Cuba’s foreign-run hotels…as much as 80 percent of the tourism economy is controlled by the military-run holding company.”

Stepped-Up Audits of Cuba Trips: The Treasury Secretary will regularly audit Cuba travel to make sure Americans are following the new rules prohibiting transactions linked to the Cuban military. Those who do go to the island will need to keep detailed notes proving they are in compliance with the new directive, or risk fines.

At the same time, many parts of the previous policy regarding Cuba will be left as-is, including the U.S. and Cuban embassies in Washington and Havana, relaxed limits on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba and the amount of rum, cigars, etc. Americans can bring back to the U.S.

These changes are not yet in effect – the directive instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to begin the process of issuing new regulations within 30 days, with final regulations issued “in the coming months.” Until then, the current rules apply. In terms of how this applies to trips paid for but not taken yet, an OFAC FAQ document says “Provided that the traveler has already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to the announcement…all additional travel-related transactions for that trip…would also be authorized.”


Cuban Requirements for Authorized Travelers:

  • The Cuban government requires all visitors to have health insurance that covers the territory of Cuba.  Should a traveler receive a license to travel or qualify  under an existing general license, a valid passport is required for entry into Cuba (must be valid 6 months after the return date of trip).
  • The Cuban government will require that the traveler obtain a visa (e.g. tourist card, business visa, etc.).
  • Understanding the entry requirements is the full responsibility of the passenger.

Blue Ribbon Travel accepts no responsibility if you do not have the correct documentation for your trip.


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