What is legal Cuba travel, how does it work, who is in charge?

The US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) enforces Cuba travel regulations. OFAC allows for twelve themes under which persons under U.S. jurisdiction can legally visit Cuba without any government documentation or permission in advance. The twelve categories are known as “general license” travel.

There is no actual license or paper issued. It is an honor system. If the purpose of your Cuba travel falls under any of the twelve pre-approved Cuba travel categories, you can hop on a plane and visit Cuba. It’s that simple.

Persons under U.S. jurisdiction

Persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, as defined in 31 CFR §515.329, including the following persons wherever located:
(i) U.S. citizens,
(ii) dual U.S. citizens
(iii) residents of the United States.”

If you are not a person under U.S. jurisdiction you do not have to select a travel category.

What are the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba?

One of the most commonly used authorizations is for “group people-to-people” travel under the auspices of a U.S. organization. More information about “group people-to-people” is provided below.

The categories of authorized travel are:

  • Support for the Cuban People (the most popular category for American guests)
  • Educational Activities (study abroad for students, teachers, and school staff)
  • Professional Research. (Professional Meetings attendance now requires special permission in advance of travel.)
  • Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and other competitions, and Exhibitions. (This category now requires special permission in advance of travel.)
  • Journalistic Activity (for electronic and print media reporters)
  • Humanitarian Projects
  • Religious Activities
  • Family Visits (connecting with close relatives in Cuba)
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions (for businesses and NGOs)
  • Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

All persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction must certify (during our online reservation process) that they satisfy all the conditions for a general license and select one of these 12 categories of travel.

Individuals traveling under one of these categories are responsible for making certain they satisfy all the U.S. regulatory requirements for the General License for that category. Cuba Travel Network/ Caribbean Travel Network does not provide official certification for this.

CARIBBEAN TRAVEL NETWORK NV does not assume responsibility of any type if you do not comply with the OFAC requirements.

CARIBBEAN TRAVEL NETWORK NV will not be responsible for any fine or demand made by the Treasury Department of the United States of America resulting from your trip to Cuba.

Information about all of these General Licenses, and their requirements, can be found on the website for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/cuba.aspx. OFAC is responsible for administering the U.S. regulations concerning Cuba.

A complete list of the requirements for each General License is located in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515, which can be accessed at www.ecfr.gov.

What is group people-to-people travel?

Individuals are authorized to travel to Cuba under a General License (general authorization) for “group people-to-people” travel if they, travel under the auspices of a U.S. organization and they adhere to a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba and which are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities. This U.S. organization must also have a tour escort accompany each program.

Individuals used to be able to travel on their own under the People-to-People General License; however, on June 16, 2017, the U.S. Administration announced the end of this individual people-to-people travel, which has been in effect since. U.S. travelers traveling under the popular people-to-people category must hence travel under the auspices of a U.S. organization.

The predominant portion of the activities cannot be with certain high-ranking officials of the Government of Cuba or certain prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.

Persons relying on this authorization must bring a copy of their Certification and an itinerary with them and maintain these records, as well as any other record related to the program, for 5 years. These records must be furnished to the Office of Foreign Assets Control on demand. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.565(b).

What is the general license for “public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions?

OFAC has issued a general license that authorizes travel to Cuba in order to participate in or organize a public performance, clinic, workshop, non-athletic competition, or exhibition in Cuba, provided that the event is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.567.

While in Cuba

While in Cuba, your activities must focus on full-time engagement in the licensed travel category of travel you choose.

Purely touristic travel such as sunning on Cuba’s beaches and swimming in its clear warm waters is strictly forbidden.

Don’t stay in Cuban hotels banned by Trump. Click here for the list.

Trump made Cuban rum and Cuban cigars illegal in the United States. You can only enjoy them while in Cuba.