January 08, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Cuba is a totalitarian police state, which relies on repressive methods to maintain control. These methods, including intense physical and electronic surveillance of Cubans, are also extended to foreign travelers. Americans visiting Cuba should be aware that any encounter with a Cuban could be subject to surreptitious scrutiny by the Castro regime’s secret police, the General Directorate for State Security (DGSE). Also, any interactions with average Cubans, regardless how well intentioned the American is, can subject that Cuban to harassment and/or detention, and other forms of repressive actions, by state security elements. The regime is strongly anti-American yet desperate for U.S. dollars to prop itself up. The United States does not have full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but provides consular and other services through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The U.S. Interests Section operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government but is not co-located with the Swiss Embassy. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Cuba for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS/TRAVEL TRANSACTION LIMITATIONS: The Cuban Assets Control Regulations are enforced by the U.S. Treasury Department and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world. The Regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed to engage in any travel-related transactions related to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada. U.S. law enforcement authorities have increased enforcement of these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of Treasury regulations will face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.
Licenses are granted to the following categories of travelers and they are permitted to spend money for Cuban travel and to engage in other transactions directly incident to the purpose of their travel under a general license, without the need to obtain special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):
* Journalists and supporting broadcasting or technical personnel (regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization and traveling for journalistic activities)
* Official government travelers on official business.
* Members of international organizations of which the United States is also a member (traveling on official business).
* Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to research in their professional areas, provided that their research: 1) is of a noncommercial, academic nature; 2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba; and 3) has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination.
* Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to attendance at professional meetings or conferences in Cuba organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences in other countries. An organization, institution, or association headquartered in the United States may not sponsor such a meeting or conference unless it has been specifically licensed to sponsor it. The purpose of the meeting or conference cannot be the promotion of tourism in Cuba or other commercial activities involving Cuba, or to foster production of any bio-technological products.
* Travelers who have received specific licenses from OFAC prior to going.
* Specific Licenses to Visit Immediate Family Members in Cuba
OFAC will issue specific licenses authorizing travel-related transactions incident to one visit lasting no more than 14 days to immediate family members who are nationals of Cuba per three-year period. For those who emigrated to the United States from Cuba, and have not since that time visited a family member in Cuba, the three-year period will be counted from the date they left Cuba. For all others, the three year period will be counted from the date they last left Cuba pursuant to the pre-existing family visit general license, or from the date their family visit specific license was issued. Travelers wishing to visit an immediate family member in Cuba who is authorized to be in Cuba, but is not a national of Cuba, may be granted a specific license in exigent circumstances provided that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana concurs in the issuance of such a license.
Specific Licenses for Educational Institutions
Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to authorize travel transactions related to certain educational activities by students or employees at U.S. undergraduate or graduate institutions. Such licenses must be renewed after a period of one year. Once an academic institution has applied for and received such a specific license, the following categories of travelers affiliated with that academic institution are authorized to engage in travel-related transactions incident to the following activities without seeking further authorization from OFAC:
* Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a structured educational program lasting at least 10 weeks as part of a course offered at a U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution. Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the travel is part of an educational program of that institution.
* Persons doing noncommercial Cuba-related academic research in Cuba for the purpose of qualifying academically as a professional (e.g., research toward a graduate degree). Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in a graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the Cuba research will be accepted for credit toward that graduate degree.
* Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a formal course of study lasting at least 10 weeks at a Cuban academic institution, provided that the Cuban study will be accepted for credit toward a degree at the licensed U.S. institution. A student planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed U.S. institution stating: 1) that the individual is a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program, or a full-time permanent employee at the institution; 2) that the Cuba-related travel is part of a structured educational program of that institution that will last at least 10 weeks; and 3) citing the institution’s license number.
* Persons regularly employed in a teaching capacity at a licensed U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution who plan to teach part or all of an academic program at a Cuban academic institution for at least 10 weeks. An individual planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed by the licensed institution in a teaching capacity.
* Cuban scholars teaching or engaging in other scholarly activities at a licensed college or university in the United States. Licensed institutions may sponsor such Cuban scholars, including payment of a stipend or salary. The Cuban scholar may remit all such stipends or salary payments back to Cuba.
* Full-time employees of a licensed institution organizing or preparing for the educational activities described above. An individual engaging in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed there.
Specific Licenses for Religious Organizations
Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to religious organizations to authorize individuals affiliated with the organization to engage in travel transactions under the auspices of the religious organization. Applications by religious organizations for such licenses should include examples of the religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba. All individuals traveling pursuant to a religious organization’s license must carry with them a letter from the licensed organization citing the number of the license and confirming that they are affiliated with the organization and that they are traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities under the auspices of the organization.
Other Specific Licenses
Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC, on a case-by-case basis, authorizing travel transactions by the following categories of persons in connection with the following activities:
* Humanitarian Projects and Support for the Cuban People – 1) Persons traveling in connection with activities that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, such as activities of recognized human rights organizations. 2) Persons whose travel transactions are directly related to certain humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.
* Free-Lance Journalism – Persons with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to Cuba to do research for a free-lance article. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available for applicants demonstrating a significant record of free-lance journalism.
* Professional Research and Professional Meetings – Persons traveling to Cuba to do professional research or to attend a professional meeting that does not meet the requirements of the relevant general license (described above). Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.
* Religious Activities – Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities that are not authorized pursuant to a religious organization’s specific license. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.
* Public Performances, Athletic or Other Competitions, and Exhibitions – Persons traveling to participate in a public performance, athletic or other competition (that does not meet the requirements of the general license described above), or exhibition. The event must be open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public, and all profits from the event after costs must be donated to an independent nongovernmental organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity with the objective, to the extent possible, of promoting people-to-people contacts or otherwise benefiting the Cuban people.
* Amateur or semi-professional athletes or teams traveling to participate in Cuba in an athletic competition held under the auspices of the relevant international sports federation. The athletes must have been selected for the competition by the relevant U.S. sports federation, and the competition must be one that is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban people.
* Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions – Persons traveling to Cuba on behalf of private foundations or research or educational institutes that have an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba for noncommercial purposes. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.
* Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials – Persons traveling to engage in activities directly related to the exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials.
* Licensed Exportation – Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in activities directly related to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of exports of health care products or other exports that may be considered for authorization under existing Department of Commerce regulations and guidelines with respect to Cuba or engaged in by U.S.-owned or – controlled foreign firms.
Applying for a Specific License
Persons wishing to travel to Cuba under a specific license should send a letter specifying the details of the proposed travel, including any accompanying documentation, to the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20220. Academic institutions wishing to obtain one of the two-year specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and establishing that the institution is accredited by an appropriate national or regional accrediting association. Religious organizations wishing to obtain one of the specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and setting forth examples of religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba.
The United States maintains a broad embargo against trading with Cuba, and most commercial imports from Cuba are prohibited by law. The sale of certain items, including medicine and medical supplies, and agricultural commodities have been approved for export by specific legislation. The Department of the Treasury may issue licenses on a case-by-case basis authorizing Cuba travel-related transactions directly incident to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, and servicing of exports and re-exports that appear consistent with the licensing policy of the Department of Commerce. The sectors in which U.S. citizens may sell and service products to Cuba include agricultural commodities, telecommunications activities, medicine, and medical devices. The Treasury Department will also consider requests for specific licenses for humanitarian travel not covered by the general license, educational exchanges (of at least 10 weeks in duration), and religious activities by individuals or groups affiliated with a religious organization.
Unless otherwise exempted or authorized, any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engages in any travel-related transaction in Cuba violates the regulations. Failure to comply with Department of Treasury regulations may result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.
Additional information may be obtained by contacting:
Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20220
Telephone (202) 622-2480; Fax (202) 622-1657
Internet users can log onto the web site at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/.
Should a traveler receive a license, a valid passport is required for entry into Cuba. The Cuban government requires that the traveler obtain a visa prior to arrival. Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or other persons, are contrary to Cuban law and are punishable by jail terms. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace (within 12 miles of the Cuban coast) without prior authorization from the Cuban government may result in arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities. Immigration violators are subject to prison terms ranging from four years for illegal entry or exit to as many as 30 years for aggravated cases of alien smuggling. For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact:
Cuban Interests Section (an office of the Cuban government)
2630 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8518
Fax (202) 797-8521
2639 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8609/8610/8615
Fax (202) 986-7283
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
The Cuban Air Force shot down two U.S. registered civilian aircraft in international airspace in 1996. As a result of this action, the President of the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an “Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement of Policy,” which allows for vigorous enforcement action against U.S. registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace. Additional information is available through the FAA’s Internet web site athttp://www.intl.faa.gov, (click on ‘Americas/Spain’ and then ‘Cuba’) or by telephone at 202-267-3210.
In addition to the appropriate general or specific license, aircraft and vessels seeking to travel to Cuba must obtain a temporary sojourn license from the Department of Commerce. Temporary sojourn licenses are not available for pleasure boaters. Additional information is available at http://www.bis.doc.gov/. Pursuant to an Executive Order issued after the 1996 shoot-down incident, boaters departing south Florida ports with the intention of entering Cuban territorial waters also must obtain permission in advance from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides automated information at 1-800-582-5943.See the Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Cuba and other countries.
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction. Please refer to the Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: In the opening months of 2003, there were numerous attempts to hijack aircraft and ocean-going vessels by Cubans seeking to depart from Cuba. In several cases, these attempts involved the use of weapons by the hijackers. Cuban authorities failed in their efforts to prevent two air hijackings, largely because of weak security procedures at satellite airports. U.S. citizens, although not necessarily targets, may be caught up in any violence during an attempted hijacking. Accordingly, U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling by public transportation within Cuba.
The United States Government has publicly and repeatedly announced that any person who hijacks (or attempts to hijack) an aircraft or vessel (common carrier or other) will face the maximum penalties pursuant to U.S. law, regardless of that person’s nationality. In Cuba, hijackers will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms at a minimum, and may be subject to the death penalty; on April 11, 2003, the Government of Cuba executed three suspected hijackers, nine days after taking them into custody.
The waters around Cuba can be dangerous to navigation. Since 1993 there have been at least ten shipwrecks involving U.S. citizens. U.S. boaters who have encountered problems requiring repairs in Cuba have found repair services to be expensive and frequently not up to U.S. standards. Note that it is not permitted by law for U.S. persons to use such repair services in non-emergency situations. Any U.S. person who makes use of Cuban repair facilities should be prepared to provide documentary evidence demonstrating the emergency nature of that activity. The government of Cuba often holds boats as collateral to assure payment for salvage and repair services. Transferring funds from the U.S. to pay for boat repairs in Cuba is complicated by restrictions codified in U.S. law relating to commercial transactions with the Government of Cuba. A Treasury license is required for such payments.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor theDepartment’s Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Although crime against U.S. and other foreign travelers in Cuba has generally been limited to pick pocketing, purse snatching, or the taking of unattended items, the U.S. Interests Section has received increased reports of violent assaults against individuals in connection with robberies. In cases of violent crime, Americans should not resist if confronted, as perpetrators are usually armed with a knife or machete and often work with partners.
Pick pocketing and purse snatching usually occurs in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other gathering points, including Old Town Havana. Travelers should use caution in all such areas and are advised not to leave belongings unattended, nor to carry purses and bags loosely over one’s shoulder. Visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash. When possible, visitors should carry a copy of their passport with them and leave the original at a secure location.
Thefts of property from air travelers’ baggage have become increasingly common. All travelers should ensure that valuables remain under their personal control at all times, and are never put into checked baggage.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Posts in countries that have victims of crime assistance programs should include that information.
See relevant information for Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care does not meet U.S. standards. While medical professionals are generally competent, many health facilities face shortages of medical supplies and bed space. Many medications are unavailable so travelers to Cuba should bring with them any prescribed medicine in its original container and in amounts commensurate with personal use. Travelers may also consider bringing additional amounts of prescribed medicines in the event that a return to the U.S. is delayed for unforeseen reasons. A copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription drugs facilitates their entry into the country.
Travelers to the Havana area should be aware that U.S. and other foreign visitors are limited to using only the “tourist” Cira Garcia Hospital located in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana. Treatment at Cira Garcia and any other medical consultation would require that U.S. travelers pay in cash (see section on Medical Insurance below).
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747, or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website athttp://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available athttp://www.who.int/ith.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: No medical facility in Cuba will accept U.S. issued insurance cards and medical services will need to be paid for in cash. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see relevant information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below Cuba is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving is on the right-hand side of the road; speed limits are sometimes posted and generally respected. Reports suggest that accidents involving motor vehicles are now the leading cause of accidental death in Cuba.
Passengers in automobiles are not required to wear seatbelts and motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets, as these are not generally available on the local market. Many accidents involve motorists striking pedestrians or bicyclists. Drivers found responsible for accidents resulting in serious injury or death are subject to prison terms of up to 10 years, and Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the country until all claims associated with an accident are settled. Additionally, the Interests Section notes that mere witnesses to vehicular accidents may not be permitted to leave Cuba until an investigation into the accident has been completed.
Taxis are available in busy commercial and tourist areas; radio-dispatched taxis are generally clean and reliable. Travelers should be aware that licensed taxis available near hotel areas are often driven by DGSE agents, or the drivers report to the DGSE, as a part of the regime’s efforts to follow the activities of foreign visitors. However, travelers should not accept rides in unlicensed taxis as they may be used by thieves to rob passengers. Buses designated for tourist travel, both between and within cities, generally meet international standards for both cleanliness and safety. Public buses used by Cubans, known as “guaguas” or “camellos,” are crowded, unreliable and havens for pickpockets. These public buses will usually not offer rides to foreign visitors.
Although popular with tourists, the three-wheeled, yellow-hooded “Co-Co” taxis are highly unsafe and should be avoided. “Co-Co” taxis are modified motorcycles that reach speeds of up to 40 mph, but have no seat belts or other safety features.
Although the main arteries of Havana are generally well-maintained, secondary streets often are not. Many roads and city streets are unlit, making night driving dangerous, especially as some cars and most bicycles lack running lights or reflectors. Street signage tends to be insufficient and confusing. Many Cuban cars are old, in poor condition and lack turn signals and other standard safety equipment. Drivers should exercise extreme care.
The principal Cuban east-west highway is in good condition but lacks lights and extends only two-thirds of the way from Havana to the eastern tip of the island. The extension of that highway on to the east is in poor condition in many areas, with washed out sections and deep potholes. Night driving should be strictly avoided outside urban areas. Secondary rural roads are narrow, and some are in such bad condition as to be impassable by cars. Due to the rarity of cars on rural roads, pedestrians, bicycles, and farm equipment operators wander onto the roads without any regard to possible automobile traffic. Unfenced livestock constitute another serious road hazard.
Rental car agencies provide roadside assistance to their clients as a condition of the rental contract. Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the country, even if they are injured and require medical evacuation, until all claims associated with an accident are settled. Travelers should not permit unauthorized persons to drive the rental vehicle. Automobile renters are provided telephone numbers to call in Havana or in other places where they might be motoring; agencies respond as needed with tow trucks and/or mechanics. A similar service is available to foreigners resident in Cuba who insure cars with the National Insurance Company.
Please refer to relevant Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct scheduled commercial air service between the United States and Cuba, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Cuba’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at
Because of serious concerns about the safety and security standards, maintenance regime and history of fatal accidents, including the hijacking concerns noted above of the Cuban flag carrier, Cubana de Aviacion, as well as other Cuban carriers on-island, U.S. Interests Section staff and official visitors to Cuba are instructed to avoid flying aboard either the domestic or the international flights of any Cuban airline, including Cubana de Aviacion. Americans considering travel on any Cuban airline may wish to defer their travel or pursue an alternative means of transportation.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Photographing military or police installations or personnel, harbor, rail, and airport facilities is forbidden.
The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents. These individuals will be treated solely as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of restrictions and obligations, including military service. The Cuban government may require U.S. citizens, whom the Government of Cuba considers to be Cuban, to enter and depart Cuba using a Cuban passport. Using a Cuban passport for this purpose does not jeopardize one’s U.S. citizenship; however, such persons must use their U.S. passports to enter and depart the United States. There have been cases of Cuban-American dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports. Despite these restrictions, Cuban-American dual nationals who fall ill may only be treated at hospitals for foreigners (except in emergencies). See the paragraph below on Consular Access for information on Cuba’s denial of consular services to dual American-Cuban nationals who have been arrested, as well as the paragraph below on Children’s Issues for information on how dual-nationality may affect welfare inquiries and custody disputes.
Cuban-American dual nationals should be especially wary of any attempt by Cuban authorities to compel them to sign “repatriation” documents. The Government of Cuba views a declaration of repatriation as a legal statement on the part of the dual national that she/he intends to resettle permanently in Cuba. In several instances, the Government of Cuba has seized the U.S. passport of dual nationals signing declarations of repatriation and has denied these individuals permission to return to the United States.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. The original should be kept in a safe location.
Cuba does not recognize the right or obligation of the U.S. Government to protect Cuban-born American citizens, whom the Cuban government views as Cuban citizens only. Cuban authorities consistently refuse to notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest of Cuban-American dual nationals and deny U.S. consular officers access to them. They also withhold information concerning their welfare and treatment.
Since November 2004, the U.S. dollar has not been accepted for commercial transactions. The Cuban government requires the use of convertible Cuban pesos (“chavitos”) for all transactions.
Cuba-Related Travel Transactions
Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above (under “Entry Requirements/Travel Transaction Limitations”) may be authorized to spend money related to travel to, from, or within Cuba. Persons traveling to Cuba to visit immediate family members (a “member of the immediate family” is defined as a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of the remitter or that remitter’s spouse, as well as any spouse, widow or widower of any of the foregoing) pursuant to a specific-license may spend no more than $50 per day on non-transportation-related expenses in Cuba, and up to an additional $50 per trip to pay for transportation-related expenses in Cuba. Persons licensed to engage in other travel-related transactions in Cuba may spend up to the State Department Travel Per Diem Allowance for Havana, Cuba, for purchases directly related to travel in Cuba, such as hotel accommodations, meals, local transportation, and goods personally used by the traveler in Cuba (travelers can check the current per diem rate on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/www/perdiems/index.html). Most licensed travelers may also spend additional money for transactions directly related to the activities for which they received their license. For example, journalists traveling in Cuba under the journalism general license (described above) may spend money over and above the current per diem for extensive local transportation, the hiring of cable layers, and other costs that are directly related to covering a story in Cuba. Purchases of services unrelated to travel or a licensed activity, such as non-emergency medical services, are prohibited. The purchase of publications and other information materials is not restricted.
Sending or Carrying Money to Cuba
U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send to members of the remitter’s immediate family in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country “family” cash remittances of up to $300 per household in any consecutive three-month period, provided that no member of the household is a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party. (The term “prohibited official of the Government of Cuba” means: Ministers and Vice-Ministers, members of the Council of State, and the Council of Ministers; members and employees of the National Assembly of People’s Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Director Generals and sub-Director Generals and higher of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions; chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio; and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional). The term “prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party” means: members of the Politburo, the Central Committee, Department Heads of the Central Committee; employees of the Central Committee; and secretary and first secretary of the provincial Party central committee.) No more than a combined total of $300 of family remittances may be sent by a remitter to any one household in any consecutive three-month period, regardless of the number of members of the remitter’s immediate family residing in that household. A licensed traveler may carry up to $300 of his own family remittances to Cuba.
U.S. persons also may send up to $1,000 per payee on a one-time basis as an “emigration-related” remittance to a Cuban national to enable the payee to emigrate from Cuba to the United States. Specifically, up to $500 may be remitted to a Cuban national prior to the payee’s receipt of a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document, and up to $500 may be remitted to the Cuban national after the payee receives a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document. A licensed traveler may only carry immigration remittances to Cuba if the visa has already been issued.
Remittances must be transferred through an OFAC-licensed depository institution or remittance forwarder. These OFAC-licensed entities originating transfers on behalf of non-aggregating customers must obtain an affidavit from the remitter certifying that each family remittance does not exceed $300 in any consecutive three-month period and that each emigration-related remittance meets the requirement of the Regulations. Remitters can expect to have their identity, date of birth, address, and telephone number verified.
U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal checks nor travelers’ checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba.
Exportation of Accompanied Baggage
Authorized travelers to Cuba are limited to 44 pounds of accompanied baggage per traveler unless a specific license from OFAC or the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security authorizes a higher amount.
What Can Be Brought Back
If U.S. travelers return from Cuba with Cuban origin goods, such goods, with the exception of informational materials, may be seized at Customs’ discretion. [Section 515.204 of the Regulations.] Cuban cigars and rum are routinely confiscated at U.S. ports of entry. The fact that Cuban cigars and rum are purchased in a “duty free” shop at the Havana Airport does not exempt them from seizure by US customs. There are no limits on the import or export of informational materials [Section 515.206 of the Regulations]. Such materials, for example books, films, tapes and CDs, are statutorily exempt from regulation under the embargo and may be transported freely. However, blank tapes and CDs are not considered informational materials and may be seized.
Fair Business Practices
Anyone authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide Cuban travel services or services in connection with sending money to Cuba is prohibited from participating in the discriminatory practices of the Cuban government against individuals or particular classes of travelers. The assessment of consular fees by the Cuban government, which are applicable worldwide, is not considered to be a discriminatory practice. However, requiring the purchase of services not desired by the traveler is not permitted. Persons wishing to provide information regarding arbitrary fees, payments for unauthorized purposes, or other possible violations furnished to the U.S. Treasury Department will be handled confidentially.
U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal checks nor travelers’ checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba. Please see relevant information on customs regulations.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Cuba’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cuba are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Those accused of drug-related and other crimes face long legal proceedings and delayed due process. In one recent drug arrest, two American citizens were sentenced to terms of 25 and 30 years. In another recent criminal case, the accused was detained for more than 18 months without a trial.
Cuba’s Law of Protection of National Independence and the Cuban Economy contains a series of measures aimed at discouraging contact between foreign nationals and Cuban citizens. These measures are aimed particularly at the press and media representatives, but may be used against any foreign national coming into contact with a Cuban. The law provides for jail terms of up to 30 years in aggravated cases. U.S. citizens traveling in Cuba are subject to this law, and they may unwittingly cause the arrest and imprisonment of any Cuban with whom they come into contact.
For more information, please contact the U.S. Interests Section’s American Citizens Services Unit at:
U.S. Interests Section
American Citizen Services Unit
Calzada, entre L y M
Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Phone: 53-7-833-3551 (through 3559)
Engaging in sexual conduct with children (persons under the age of 18) or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in both the United States and Cuba. Please see relevant information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: Cuba does not allow adoption of children by U.S. citizens. Additionally, children who maintain both Cuban and U.S. citizenship are considered to be Cuban citizens by the Government of Cuba because dual nationality is not recognized. Consequently, it is often difficult for U.S. consular officers to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizen children living with their Cuban parents or relatives. In the event of a custody dispute, the American parent may need to pursue a legal hearing in Cuba with the assistance of a Cuban attorney. The Interests Section can provide a list of attorneys practicing in the Havana area to interested parties.
For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website.
U.S. REPRESENTATION/REGISTRATION: The U.S. Interests Section (USINT) represents American citizens and the U.S. Government in Cuba, and operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government. The Interests Section staff provides the full range of American citizen consular services. U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba are encouraged to contact and register with USINT’s American Citizen Services section.
U.S. citizens who register at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana may obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. There is no access to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay from within Cuba. The U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica handles consular issues for Guantanamo Bay. For further information on Guantanamo Bay, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kingston at telephone (876) 929-5374.
The Interests Section is located in Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone (537) 833-3551 through 833-3559. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For emergency assistance after hours and on weekends, individuals should call (537) 833-3026 and request to speak with the duty officer.
USINT staff members provide briefings on U.S.-Cuba policy to American individuals and groups visiting Cuba. These briefings or meetings can be arranged through USINT’s Public Diplomacy office.