Can United States Citizens Travel To Cuba?

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To most of the world the world, Cuba brings to mind, Cuban cigars, Havana nightclubs, Rum and I Love Lucy’s costar, Ricky Ricardo.

If you are an American, you also associate this beautiful country with those very same things, yet have never made plans to visit this beautiful island.

Why?

Americans are wary to travel to Cuba because despite the recent embargo being lifted, tourism is still not legal.

In 1960 America enacted a commercial, financial, and economic embargo, which restricted almost all trade and business between these two neighboring countries.

As of July 20th 2015, the United States has finally lifted this long embargo, leaving the world wondering if the neighboring countries have truly made peace with one another.

More so US citizens are beginning to feel the itch of the “Cuban travel bug” now more than ever, and want so much to vacation in Cuba as they do almost everywhere else around the globe.

Before we can understand why US travel to Cuba is so controversial, lets first get the facts straight so that you can understand what and why the embargo was enacted.

  • (March 1952) President Fulgencio Batista cancels elections and seizes power by force.
  • (1950-1959) Fulgencio Batista rules Cuba like a dictator with an anticommunist outlook.
  • (1953-1959) Cuban revolution led by by Fidel Castro‘s 26th of July Movement against the Fulgencio Batista Regime
  • (January 1st 1959) Fulgencio Batista regime overthrown by Fidel Castro‘s 26th of July Movement
  • (Oct 19th 1960) Cuba seizes all American owned oil refinery’s without due compensation, in turn the US instituted the first embargo withholding exports to Cuba (with the exception of food and medicine).
  • (1961) Bay Of Pigs Invasion: backed by the US, Cuban rebels unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the Castro regime.
  • (February 7th 1962) United States extends Embargo to include almost all imports to and from Cuba.
  • (May 29th 2014)  The Obama administration officially removes Cuba from the United States State Sponsors of Terrorism
  • (July 20th 2015) Cuban and U.S. “interests sections” in Washington and Havana are officially converted to embassies.

Can United States Citizens travel to Cuba?

Yes and no.

If your intention is to tan on a Cuban beach with a cigar in hand then the answer is no.

Leisure tourism is still not allowed. Meaning that even after recent changes, a US citizen still cannot legally travel to Cuba for a sun kissed beach holiday.

In the past there have been some leeway for Cuban travel for specific purposes but each had to be authorized on a case-by-case basis.

So you might ask, “what has changed since July 20th 2015?”

As of July 20th 2015, an American may travel to Cuba for any one of the following reasons without having to apply for a license on a case-by-case basis.

1.Visiting close relatives

2.Official business for the US government, foreign government and certain intergovernmental organizations

3.Official Journalistic activity

4.Professional research

5.Educational activities

6.Religious activities

7.Public performances

8.Support for the Cuban people

9.Humanitarian projects

10.Research-Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes

11.Export/Import-Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials

12.Certain export transactions

Getting there:

Plane:

Authorized US citizens are able to book flights through any US-based airline, certified travel agent or through any participating online flight search engine (such as skyscanner.com) . Just note that whomever books your trip will also have to verify that your itinerary is valid and that you are there strictly for one of the 12 purposes mentioned earlier in this article.

Cruise:

Since the Obama administration has removed Cuba from the list of terrorist countries, a growing number of cruise lines have now begun to take American passengers to Cuba (under a “people to people” license encouraging cultural and humanitarian exchanges).

Private Boat:

A US citizen may use their own boat to reach Cuba providing that their visit falls under one of the 12 categories listed above, and they follow all US regulations.

Is there a daily spending limit ?

 No.

Any authorized US citizen may have regular and unlimited transactions in Cuba.

There are however limitations about the amount of goods brought back to the US.

As per the US Treasury a US citizen may import up to $400.00 of Cuban goods, back to the US but only a maximum of $100.00 in value of alcohol and tobacco.

It’s better to be safe than sorry:

Please keep in mind that these laws are subject to change, and it’s always advisable to check with the US Department of Treasury and the US Embassy in Havana before scheduling any trip to Cuba for any reason. If you are lucky enough to be one the few Americans able to travel to Cuba remember that you must stick to your intended itinerary. For example, if you go for humanitarian purposes and are caught sunning yourself on a beach chair, you might be in danger of hefty fines and or imprisonment. Trust me, you’d much prefer to spend the extra time, cross your T’s and dot your “I’s” to be sure that your travel plans are in line with all the latest laws and regulations.

In conclusion, as long as a US citizen falls under one of the 12 categories that are mentioned in this article and abide by all relevant US laws, travel to Cuba is indeed permitted. Perhaps soon the long embargo will be fully lifted and US citizens/residents will be able to join the rest of the world and enjoy leisure travel to this beautiful sunny country that has been off-limits for so long.

Zoe Green

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