General Licenses for U.S. Citizens Traveling to Cuba

Photo of a U.S. passport in a traveler's hand.

Photo © Greg Blomberg/123rf.

The following categories of travelers are permitted to spend money for Cuban travel without the need to obtain special permission from OFAC. They are not required to inform OFAC in advance of their visit to Cuba. However, they must be able to document that their travel qualifies under a general license and keep records for five years. Fully hosted travel, formerly allowed, is no longer permitted.

  • Official government travelers, including representatives of international organizations of which the United States is a member, traveling on official business.
  • Journalists and supporting broadcasting or technical personnel regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization and traveling for journalistic activities. (The Cuban government requires that you be issued a journalist’s visa, not a tourist card.) The new regulations will now permit freelance journalists with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to do research for a freelance article to do so under a general license.
  • Full-time professionals whose travel is directly related to “noncommercial, academic research” in their professional field and whose research will comprise a full work schedule in Cuba and has a likelihood of public dissemination; or whose travel is directly related to attendance at professional meetings or conferences that do not promote tourism or other commercial activity involving Cuba or the production of biotechnological products, so long as such meetings are organized by “qualifying international bodies.” (Current guidelines limit the conferences that may be attended.)
  • Persons visiting Cuban family (or persons visiting “close relatives” who are U.S. government employees assigned to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana) may visit them as often as desired and for an unlimited period.
  • Faculty, staff, and students of accredited U.S. graduate and undergraduate degree-granting academic institutions traveling for educational activities. University students may travel to Cuba for purposes of study towards their graduate or undergraduate degree for any length of time, provided that they have authorization from their university and a letter verifying that credit towards their degree will be granted for their time and study in Cuba.
  • Religious activities under the auspices of a religious organization located in the United States.
  • Humanitarian projects designed to directly benefit the Cuban people.
  • Activities intended to provide support for the Cuban people including but not limited to (1) activities of recognized human rights organizations; (2) activities of independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and (3) activities of individuals and nongovernmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
  • Professional research and meetings.
  • Academic educational activities for accredited U.S. graduate or undergraduate degree-granting academic institutions.
  • Educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program and that take place under the auspices of an organization that promotes people-to-people contact.
  • Academic seminars, conferences, and workshops related to Cuba or global issues involving Cuba and sponsored or co-sponsored by the traveler’s accredited U.S. graduate or undergraduate academic institution.
  • Athletic competitions by amateur or semi-professional athletes or teams selected by the relevant U.S. federation.
  • Participation in a public performance, clinic, workshop, competition, or exhibition in Cuba.
  • Activities by private foundations or research or educational institutes that have an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba for noncommercial purposes.
  • Persons traveling to engage in exportation, importation, or transmission of informational materials.
  • Marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of exports consistent with the export or re-export licensing policy of the Department of Commerce.
  • Marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of medicine, medical supplies, or certain telecommunications equipment by a U.S.-owned or -controlled firm in a third country.
  • Individuals traveling to conduct business in the field of agricultural and medicinal product sales (including marketing, negotiation, delivery, or servicing of exports), and in telecommunications, including conferences and meetings.
Want to know more about traveling to Cuba from the United States? Check out these articles: Organized Travel to Cuba from the United States and U.S. Law and Travel to Cuba in 2015×

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Cuba.

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