New Cuba Travel Rules Same as the Old Rules, Except Easier

Let’s pretend that the Obama Administration was a blip on the radar. It’s more likely the current administration is, but just follow along for a minute. Suppose that Obama’s progressive Thaw was a wild swing of the pendulum and that Trump’s Retrenchment is a return to the traditional relationship between the US and Cuba. If you look at Trump’s Retrenchment in the context of the longer history of US/Cuba relations then it looks like a thaw compared to pre-2008.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has finally finished its policy review and the new Cuba travel rules went into effect on November 8, 2017.

Here's What's New

  • Individuals are no longer allowed to travel to Cuba under the People to People general license.
  • US companies (like GoodTrip) are barred with contracting for services with certain Cuban entities. Here’s that list.
  • That’s it!

And, there are some important exceptions…

  • If you are an individual and completed at least one travel-related purchase prior to Trump’s Miami speech on June 16, 2017 then you are exempt from the new rules.
  • If you are a US company and you already had a contract in place prior to the release of the new OFAC policy on November 7, 2017 then you are exempt from the new rules.

Note that the allowance for Americans to travel under general licenses, and not to have to apply for specific licenses is still in place!

So What Do the New Cuba Travel Rules Mean???

US citizens who want to travel to Cuba will have to contract with a US based tour operator to take them there on ‘Educational‘ or ‘People to People‘ trips.

Individuals may be able to travel to Cuba on their own under the ‘Support for the Cuban People category. We intend to test it immediately and report back. Individuals may also be able to travel under the ‘Religious Activities‘ category though this isn’t a good idea since the Cuban government places their highest level of controls on travel of this nature.

Regardless of which category you plan to travel under you will be required to engage in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people (under the ‘People to People‘ category) or promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy (under the ‘Support for the Cuban People‘ category).

These activities must be:

  • intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people
  • support civil society in Cuba
  • promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities
  • and/or result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.

If you are traveling as an individual under the ‘support for the Cuban people’ category you will need to produce an affidavit identifying yourself and naming the license number under which you’re traveling. You should also produce an itinerary consistent with the demands of the new regulations and it is advised that you keep a travel journal and any receipts for expenses that you accrue throughout your trip. If you are traveling with a tour operator then this is done for you.

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What Should You Do?

Regardless of intentions, Trump’s Retrenchment is causing a great deal of hardship and pain to the ordinary citizens of Cuba and disproportionately hurting those that took a chance by jumping into the free market economy growing up around the tourism industry.

If you are considering travel to Cuba please have a look at one of our upcoming group trips. If you want to go it alone we think you can and should. Please get in touch with us and we’ll offer you free advice as to how to mitigate your risk in doing so.

Safe travels and have a good trip!