U.S. Law and Travel to Cuba
Moon Cuba provides complete travel information for all travelers, regardless of origin. Cuba has no restrictions on international travel. However, the U.S. government does. Most yanquis harbor the false impression that it’s illegal for U.S. citizens to visit Cuba; it’s not, it’s merely illegal to spend money there, or to do so in pursuit of travel. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutional right of unrestricted travel; thus the U.S. government invokes the 1916 Trading with the Enemy Act to prohibit travelers from trading with Cuba.
To visit Cuba legally you must either spend no money there, or qualify for a license issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in order to buy goods or services. Except as specifically licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), payments of any kind in connection with travel to Cuba are prohibited, including prepaid tours in third countries. The regulations change frequently and are open to interpretation by OFAC staff. (At press time, the Obama administration had liberalized restrictions for Cuban-Americans, and more liberal interpretation of the laws is evident; more licenses are being granted, and the Bush administration witchhunt of transgressors appears to have been relaxed.)
The regulations apply to: U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located; all people and organizations physically in the United States (including airline passengers in transit); and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. companies and organizations throughout the world.
To determine if you or your organization qualifies for a general license (which does not require prior authorization) or a specific license (which does require prior authorization), contact the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control (U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20200, tel. 202/622-2480, www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs/cuba/cuba.shtml).
All licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba must have a visa from the Cuban government prior to reserving their flight.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition