Travel to Cuba from the United States

  Restrictions on Travel from the US to Cuba
Getting A Specific License As An Individual for travel to Cuba
Returning from Cuba
On-Going Harassment of Travelers to Cuba by OFAC After Returning Home
Responding to OFAC "Requirement to Furnish Information" Letter
Responding to OFAC “Pre-penalty Notice” Letter

Tightened Travel Restrictions June 2004

NOTE: According to late 2003 letter from OFAC to Congress, as reported by the Associated Press in April 2004, "Between 1990 and 2003 it opened just 93 enforcement investigations related to terrorism and collected just $9,425 in fines for terrorism financing violations since 1994.

"In contrast, OFAC opened 10,683 enforcement investigations since 1990 for possible violations of the long-standing economic embargo against Fidel Castro's regime, and collected more than $8 million in fines since 1994, mostly from people who sent money to, did business with or traveled to Cuba without permission."

At the end of 2003, OFAC had just four full-time employees dedicated to investigating Ousama Bin Ladin's and Sadam Hussien's wealth, while twenty were working on the terrorism of Cuban embargo violation.

[The information in this update draws also from work done the Latin American Working Group, the Center for International Policy's Freedom to Travel Campaign and the Washington Office on Latin America. For further information and action opportunities, see the LAWG website, www.lawg.org; the CubaCentral website, cubacentral.wordpress.com/; and the WOLA website, http://www.wola.org/country/cuba.

You'll recall that on May 6, President Bush accepted the recommendations from the report of his "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba." The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury is the US agency charged with the enforcement of the embargo against Cuba. These Commission's recommendations became official US policy on June 16, when OFAC published new Cuba regulations in the Federal Register, with an effective date of June 30, 2004. The new rules were issued as an "interim final rule"; OFAC has stated that comments submitted to them prior by August 16, 2004, will be considered in the development of final regulations.

ACTION: We encourage you to make your voice heard by sending your comments on the new regulations (summary follows below) to OFAC. There are several ways to do this:

* by fax to the Chief of Records at 202.622.1657;

* by mail to the Chief of Records, ATTN: Request for Comments, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20220.

The deadline for comments is August 16, 2004, but we encourage you to write your response as soon as possible. On your response, either in the online comment form or in your hard copy, specify that you are commenting on chapter V of 31 CFR Part 515. In the text of your comments, please also write, "Office of Foreign Assets Control, Treasury, FR Doc. 04-13630."  We'd appreciate receiving a copy of your comments at [email protected] It helps us to know what actions you take!

ACTION: Call your representative and senators (US Capitol Switchboard is 202.224.3121; or go to www.house.gov or www.senate.gov ) to let them know that you strongly oppose the new Cuba measures and that you support unrestricted travel to Cuba by all US citizens. The new regulations are a costly and dangerous endeavor. They hurt ordinary Cubans, restrict the rights of US citizens, and divide Cuban families. They will only serve to increase tensions between the two nations, heightening fears of forcible regime change among the Cuban people. The new regulations are clearly a political ploy to gain hard-line Cuban-American votes in south Florida in a presidential election year. But we believe this is a miscalculation; Congress, Cuban Americans, and the general US public are crying out against this harsh policy. Depending upon the congressional schedule and the efficiency with which they deal with spending bills, there may be votes in Congress this summer and fall that address US Cuba policy, so your input now is important.

ACTION: Sign a letter supporting Senator Kerry's position on travel and remittances, and urge others to do the same. Your opinion counts!

SUMMARY OF THE NEW RULES: the following is from a memo prepared for the Center for International Policy's Freedom to Travel Campaign by Edward L. Rubinoff of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP.

1. Fully-hosted travel. The previous authorization for "fully-hosted" travel to Cuba (for which all costs and fees either are paid for by a third-country national who is not subject to US jurisdiction or are covered or waived by Cuba) is eliminated. Moreover, the regulations now include a prohibition on the receipt of goods or services in Cuba when they are provided free-of-charge or received as a gift, unless otherwise authorized by an OFAC general or specific license. OFAC now considers this a prohibited dealing in property in which Cuba has an interest.

2. Importation of Cuban merchandise. The general license that authorized licensed Cuba travelers to purchase in Cuba and return to the United States with up to $100 worth of Cuban merchandise for personal consumption is eliminated. Thus, no merchandise, other than informational materials, may be purchased or otherwise acquired in Cuba and then brought back to the United States.

3. Accompanied baggage. The amount of baggage carried by an authorized traveler to Cuba is now limited to 44 pounds per traveler, unless a higher amount is authorized by OFAC or BIS.

4. Family visits. Under prior regulations, a general license authorized a person to visit a close relative (defined to include second cousins) once every 12 months (and more often under a specific license). There was no stated limit to the duration of the first visit and travelers could spend up to the State Department per diem (currently $167) for living expenses in Cuba, plus any additional funds needed for transactions directly related to visiting the relative. The new rule eliminates the general license and requires a specific license issued by OFAC that will only authorize travel-related transactions incident to visits to members of the traveler's "immediate family" (defined as spouse, parents, children, siblings, grandparents; visits to cousins, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces are not allowed) once per three-year period, measured from the last departure from Cuba, for no more than 14 days. No additional visits will be authorized by specific licenses, according to OFAC, apparently even for exigent circumstances. Travelers may obtain an OFAC license to visit an immediate family member who is not a Cuban national (such as a student in Cuba under a university educational activity license) in exigent circumstances, provided that the exigency has been reported to the US Interests Section in Havana and the issuance of the license would "support the mission of the US Interests Section." The amendments reduce the amount of money travelers who are visiting immediate family members can spend for living expenses to $50 per day, plus up to an additional $50 per trip to pay for transportation-related expenses.

5. Educational activities. Specific licenses are limited to undergraduate and graduate institutions (i.e., no secondary schools) and the duration of such licenses is shortened from two years to one year. Only students enrolled in the licensed institution may travel on that license; therefore, students may no longer travel to Cuba under the license of an educational institution other than their own, even if their own institution accepts the licensed institution's program for credit toward the student's degree. Employees who travel under the license must be full-time permanent employees of the licensed institution. Certain educational activates in Cuba may be no shorter than ten weeks; others may be for a period of less than ten weeks. Previously licensed travel that no longer meets the new requirements may still go forward as long as the trips and all associated transactions are completed by August 15, 2004.

6 Sporting events, clinics and workshops. The general license for amateur

and semi-professional athletic competitions sponsored by an international sports federation is eliminated and OFAC will only authorize such activities under a specific license on a case-by-case basis. The policy of specifically licensing participation in workshops and clinics, whether sports-related or otherwise, is also eliminated.

7. Family remittances. The general license authorizing quarterly $300 remittances sent by any US person 18 years of age or older to any household or national of Cuba is eliminated. The new general license authorizes such remittances only when they are sent to the remitter's immediate family. They cannot be remitted to certain Cuban government officials and members of the Cuban Communist party. The total amount of family remittances that an authorized traveler may carry to Cuba is reduced from $3,000 to $300.

8. Remittance-related transactions. The general license authorizing depository institutions to act as forwarders for family and emigration remittances is eliminated. A specific authorization as a remittance forwarder is now required. Depository institutions are still authorized under general license to provide services related to other authorized financial institutions, such as transferring funds to Cuba covered by a specific license allowing overflight payments.

Return to OFAC: Travel, Trade, Licenses and Legislation


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