Cuba Travel: What You Need to Know

On September 21st, 2015 the Obama administration implemented numerous regulatory changes aimed at loosening U.S. business and travel restrictions relating to Cuba. Americans can now open business locations and bank accounts in Cuba, and it is now easier for cruise ships and other vessels to travel to the island. Efforts such as these to promote commerce are merely one step in a series of actions to improve relations with Cuba.

However, it is important to understand that not everything has changed. The President is using his Executive authority to eliminate certain regulatory prohibitions, but the infamous Cuban Embargo is law (Section 620(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (75 Stat. 445), as amended) and remains in place until Congress – and only Congress – repeals it. American tourism is still prohibited in Cuba, among other activities. Does this mean it is impossible for Americans to travel to the island 90 miles south of us? The answer here lies within the distinction that tourism is prohibited; travel is not. There are twelve categories of authorized travel to Cuba; these include things such as family visits, journalistic activities, educational endeavors, athletic competitions, etc. If you would like to see a full list of the approved reasons to travel, please click here.[1] If you can demonstrate that your trip includes one of these twelve authorized components, then it is significantly more likely your travel will be permitted. While Cuba remains off-limits to U.S. tourists, these newly loosened restrictions make it feasible that more Americans will begin legally making trips to the island. The question now becomes, with increased approved travel to Cuba, does the island have the necessary infrastructure? The recent Papal visit caused an overwhelming of the tourist infrastructure, if that is any answer. Increased travel means improvements will need to be made to accommodations, transportation, Internet connectivity, and more. All we know for now is that only time will tell how Cuba addresses these newly arising issues.

Another important distinction to recognize is that the embargo imposed in 1962 has not been lifted. This means that the majority of transactions between the U.S. and Cuba are still prohibited, including trade activities. As mentioned above, the embargo is a Congressional statute, and therefore it is not within the power of the President to change this. These regulatory changes are certainly a step in the right direction towards easing restrictions, but the embargo remains in place at the present time, with major business and tourism impediments intact.




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