On January 16, 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control significantly eased restrictions on travel to and from Cuba, as well as transactions normally incident to such travel. While tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited, travel and transactions for a variety of other purposes will now be permitted:
- Family visits: In addition to being authorized to visit close relatives who are nationals of Cuba or certain U.S. government employees, individuals are now authorized to visit close relatives who are (1) ordinarily resident in Cuba; (2) located in Cuba for more than 60 days for authorized educational activities; and (3) located in Cuba on official government/intergovernmental organization business.
- Official Government Business: In addition to government officials, whose travel was previously authorized, employees, contractors, and grantees of the U.S. Government, foreign governments, or intergovernmental organizations in which the United States is a member or holds observer status are now authorized to travel to Cuba on official business.
- Journalistic Activities in Cuba: While journalistic activities by individuals regularly employed as journalists or as supporting broadcast or technical personnel was and continues to be authorized, this authorization has been expanded to include travel for certain freelance journalists and broadcast and technical personnel supporting such freelance journalists.
- Professional Research and Professional Meetings in Cuba: Travel for professional research is now authorized provided it relates to the individual’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise, including area of full-time graduate-level study. Similarly, travel for professional meetings is authorized provided the purpose of the meeting directly relates to the individual’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise, and does not promote tourism in Cuba.
- Educational Activities: Previously authorized travel included travel directly incident to participation in certain structural educational programs, noncommercial academic research, formal courses of study, teaching, and sponsorship of Cuban scholars. In addition to such activities, travel for certain educational exchanges, sponsorship or co-sponsorship of noncommercial academic seminars or conferences, and facilitation of licensed educational activities in Cuba (subject to certain conditions) are now also authorized.
- Religious Activities in Cuba: Previously limited to religious organizations in the United States, OFAC now authorizes all persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to travel to Cuba to engage in a full-time schedule of religious activities. Financial and material donations continue to be prohibited.
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions: Travel for certain athletic competition by amateur or semi-professional athletes or athletic teams that previously required a license is now authorized. Similarly, travel for participation in public performances, clinics, workshops, certain athletic competitions, and exhibits in Cuba are also authorized provided the events meet specified conditions.
- Support for the Cuban People: Travel by human rights organizations, independent organizations designed to promote peaceful transitions to democracy, and organizations that promote activities to strengthen civil society in Cuba are now authorized.
- Humanitarian Projects: Travel related to certain humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are intended to directly benefit the Cuban people are now authorized. The types of projects authorized include, but are not limited to, medical- and health-related projects; environmental projects; projects involving formal and non-formal education training on topics such as entrepreneurship and business, journalism, and advocacy; agricultural and rural development; and certain micro-financing projects.
- Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutes: OFAC now authorizes private foundations or research or educational institutes with established interests in international relations to travel to Cuba to collect information for noncommercial purposes.
- Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials: Travel to/from Cuba that is directly incident to the exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials is now authorized.
- Certain Authorized Export Transactions: Travel that is directly incident to the conduct of market research, commercial marketing, sales negotiation, delivery, servicing of items, or exports that are consistent with the Department of Commerce’s licensing policy are now authorized.
OFAC has also authorized individuals and entities to provide aircraft carrier services to, from, or within Cuba consistent with the expanded travel-related regulations. Employees, officials, consultants, or agents providing travel or carrier services are also authorized to travel to Cuba for professional meetings, such as those to discuss the arrangements for, and safety and security of, such flights. In addition, banking institutions are now authorized to provide services for the collection of remittances related to such services.