Travel to Cuba

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Travel to Cuba: Update

In 2014, President Obama announced that Cuban-American relations would be reopened. The following are major changes to U.S. trade and travel policy with Cuba. The changes will go into effect January 16, 2015:

Note that Congress has not officially lifted the embargo, so the remainder of this article could still apply. When President Obama leaves office, it will be up to the next President to maintain these changes in U.S. - Cuba relations.

Why Is Travel to Cuba Banned?

In 1962, President Kennedy issued an executive order imposing a trade embargo against Cuba. This order has since been solidified in the form of U.S. federal regulations and statutes. In general, U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging in any economic relations with the government of Cuba or Cuban nationals. As a result, most forms of travel to the country are prohibited.

Is All Travel Prohibited?

There are a few exceptions to the ban on travel:

How Can I Legally Travel to Cuba?

Update: Subject to change after President Obama’s change in Cuba relations.

To apply for a license to travel to Cuba, one should contact the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. It is very unlikely that a U.S. citizen could legally travel to Cuba for vacation or leisure purposes.

What Is the Penalty for Traveling to Cuba Without a Permit?

Update: Subject to change after President Obama’s change in Cuba relations.

The penalty for violating this law is often a fine of $7,500 for first offenders, but fines could total up to $250,000. Furthermore, lying to U.S. Customs officials upon your return violates federal law.

Can I Bring Any Souvenirs Back?

Update: Subject to change after President Obama’s change in Cuba relations.

The U.S. government prohibits tourists from bringing back items bought in Cuba including cigars and coffee. Tourists may bring back informational items including books and artwork.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Travel to Cuba?

If you are planning a legal trip to Cuba, you will need an attorney to plan or obtain a license. If you have recently returned from an illegal trip to Cuba and are facing sanctions, you may want to speak to an attorney.

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Last Modified: 03-03-2015 10:23 AM PST

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