U.S. travel to Cuba

Update on New Regulations Regarding U.S. Travel to Cuba

Despite the announcement (4th June) that further restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba will be enforced, it is still easy (and legal) to travel to Cuba as a U.S. citizen.

You just need to fit your ‘tourist’ travel under a general license, so that those that enforce the embargo (OFAC) know that your time in Cuba has a meaningful purpose.

The two most widely applicable general license categories were ‘Support for the Cuban People’ and ‘People to People’. As of June 4th 2019, People to People travel is no longer available to U.S. citizens, so the ‘Support for the Cuban People’ category remains your best option. 

Of significant importance, is that none of the 12 general licenses available require approval from the OFAC. You don’t need to make any application or fill out any paper work. You basically just self-certify, meaning you state the category you are traveling under to whoever asks (airline, travel agent, U.S. border agent etc.). You should also have trip documentation that helps you support how you spent your time e.g. itinerary or daily diary.  

For those traveling on a general license, you will still need a Cuba Visitor Visa, which is a requirement of the Cuban government. It doesn’t have anything to do with the category you are traveling under (a requirement of the U.S. government). Most often you can just purchase this Visa at the airport, through the airline you are traveling with.

 

General License For Support For The Cuban People (SCP) (515.574)

Here is a summary of the requirements to travel under the ‘Support for the Cuban People’ category. 

– Engage with privately owned businesses (e.g. Casa Particulars/B&B’s, private restaurants (paladares) etc.)

– Maintain a full schedule (considered 6-8 hour daily, or 40 hours per week) 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 and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba”

Here are some recommendations that are considered acceptable by the industry:

– Guided history/cultural tours

– eating at private restaurants (paladares)

– Visiting galleries and purchasing art work

– Taking Lessons (language, dance, music etc.)

-Shopping at privately owned businesses

– Spending time interacting with your Casa host

– Museums, Monuments and places of historic and cultural significance

Furthermore, you should:

 

– Avoid transactions with Cuban government entities that are on the U.S Department of State Banned List.

– Document your activities and transactions in a travel journal and hold onto these records for 5 years

If traveling under the approved ‘Support for the Cuban People’ category, you are not required to be on a tour, but this is certainly recommended. Any time spent with your local guide will count towards “promoting independence” and “meaningful interactions”. A local guide will help you immerse yourself in Cuban culture, interact more with the Cuban people and make your time in Cuba more stress and hassle free.  

 

Legal tours for U.S. Citizens

Locally Sourced Cuba Tours has made it as easy as possible for U.S. citizens and residents to travel legally to Cuba.  U.S. citizens are welcome to join any of our group or private tours, which have each been designed to meet the travel restrictions set by the U.S. government.  Our tours have a full itinerary of educational and cultural activities and engage in activities and services that support the Cuban people.  You do not have to apply for this license and we will assist you with the documentation and process of ensuring your travel is compliant.  No further action is required on your part for compliance.  Please read about Cuban entry requirements below.

Travel to Cuba under a General License under the “Support for the Cuban People” designation.

The Support for the Cuban People designation is set by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) with the intention to provide support for the Cuban people, provided that the traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities.  Travelers under this General License do not need to apply for a special license and will receive support from our company to prepare and retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions.   

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

It is important to note that the General License you will travel under pertains to U.S. laws, not Cuban ones.  This means you may be asked about your license upon boarding your flight to Cuba from the U.S., or upon reentry, but not when you are in Cuba.  Cuba requires all travelers (not just U.S. citizens) to have a valid passport that will not expire sooner than six months beyond your dates of travel.  You also need a Cuban Tourist Visa and travel medical insurance

No.  Under current U.S. regulations, U.S. citizens who wish to travel to Cuba must qualify under one of the several license categories set by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  Our company follows the guidelines that govern the General License under the Support for the Cuban People category.  This does not require any application, although there is documentation you are required to keep records of for five years.  Our company provides you with that documentation upon final booking with us.  For more information about the different license categories and the documentation you are required to keep, please visit the OFAC website directly here

It may be the easiest and most affordable option to purchase your Cuban Visa (also called Tourist Card) directly from the airline you fly from the U.S.  Many major carriers may sell you a blank visa for between $50-$100 at the airport.  We encourage you to check directly with the airline prior to counting on this option as processes and procedures can change without warning. 

We can also send you a Cuban visa directly to your U.S. address in advance of your travel for $85.  Just indicate you want a visa included when you book with us and we will mail it directly to you.

All U.S. airlines traveling to Cuba from the U.S. bundle the mandatory Cuban travel insurance into the price of your airline ticket.  While it’s not readily seen on the itemized bill, it is indeed included.  You do not need to purchase this separately.  We will provide you with the necessary documentation for proof of insurance as well as procedures in case you need to use it upon final booking with us.  We do still recommend you purchase travel insurance within 20 days of booking your trip to cover trip cancellation, interruption etc.  Please see our Cuba Travel Guide for more information.

You are welcome to travel to and from Cuba however is most convenient to you.  Because you are traveling on a licensed tour, all you need is a way to access your paperwork upon reentry to the U.S.

Under current regulations, there are not limits on the amount of money Americans can spend in Cuba.  The Cuban government does require all travelers including U.S. citizens to declare amounts in excess of $5,000.  Please check with us if you plan to spend amounts in excess of $5,000 per person after all tour expenses and we can guide you on how to properly report this.

Yes.  In November 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published a “List of Restricted Entities and Subentities Associated With Cuba as of November 9, 2017” that the U.S. government believes maintain direct links to Cuban military intelligence, and security services.  As a result, U.S. citizens are not permitted to conduct any business with these entities.  The list includes some travel agencies, stores, transportation companies, and hotels.  We will make sure your itinerary does not include any of these restricted entities. 

Not at this time.  Under current U.S. regulations, U.S. citizens must “engage in a full-time schedule of activities that result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba and that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities.”  Additionally, each traveler’s schedule must not “include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.”  Please consult with us about ways to customize your itinerary to be compliant with U.S. travel restrictions.

The short answer is very little.  While the activities are extremely similar on these tours, the main difference is that a U.S. representative of our company needs to accompany your tour on the People-to-People license.  The Support for the Cuban People license is therefore a more cost-effective way for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba legally and worry-free. If you would prefer travelling on a People-to-People tour, please contact us below. 

Remember that you will never actually hold or apply for a physical license.  All you need is the paperwork our company will send you and provide guidance on upon final booking.  We have found that it is very unpredictable when or if travelers are asked for their documentation.  The most common time this happens is when travelers that traveled with us years ago then decide to apply for TSA pre-check or Global Entry status.  As part of that application process, the travelers are asked for their documentation related to their Cuba travel.  Once supplied, all the travelers we have worked with have then proceeded with the application process without incident. 

Occasionally, travelers may be asked which license they are traveling under when booking airfare online or with a travel agent.  The answer is “Support for the Cuban People (515.574)”.  It is rare, but possible to be asked for paperwork when reentering the U.S. from Cuba.  This depends largely on the port of entry, person reviewing your passport, and a myriad of other factors.  We advise you to be open and honest about having traveled to Cuba because you went legally and are fully compliant with U.S. regulations.

Still have questions?  Contact Us:

505-600-9325

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