Travel Requirements for Travel to Cuba

revised May 4, 2016

What are the travel authorizations in the Cuba program?
OFAC has issued general licenses within the 12 categories of authorized travel for many travel-related 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;
  • Certain authorized export transactions
Additional and frequently updated information can be found on the U.S. Treasury Department's FAQ page. 

 

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 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 attending or organizing 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, provided that the purpose of the meeting or conference is not the promotion of tourism in Cuba. 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? 
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 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, as well as the provision of educational grants, scholarships, or awards to a Cuban national or in which Cuba or a Cuban national otherwise has an interest. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.565(a). Please also see 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.

 

Are secondary schools and secondary school students permitted to engage in travel-related transactions under the general license for “educational activities”?
Yes. Educational exchanges 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-to-people 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 recordk-eeping obligations with respect to the requirements described above. For
a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.565(b). 14. 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. 16. 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?
OFAC has issued a general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, transactions, included 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; community-based 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 C.F.R. § 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. This general license also authorizes the provision of grants or awards for humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people and that are of the types described above. 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  

 

Check the U.S. Treasury Department's website for more info.