Do I have to get prior approval from the US Government before traveling to Cuba?

No. There are two types of licenses to travel to other countries–specific and general licenses. Support for the Cuban People is a general license, meaning you don’t need prior approval. You just have to comply with the license requirements set out by the Federal Regulations

Who qualifies for the license?

Three groups can qualify:

  • Human rights groups
  • Independent organizations designed to help Cuba peacefully transition to democracy
  • Individuals acting to strengthen Cuban society.

That last one will apply to most individual travellers. It means you can’t go there just to sight see. You must intend to help Cuban people and their society.

What are examples of “Support tor the Cuban People” activities?

More than you might think. The government gives these examples:

  • eat at paladares (restaurants owned by an individual (not government owned restaurants)
  • eat breakfast with your host and ask about Cuban life
  • shop at privately owned stores
  • supporting Cuban artists by going to art exhibits, galleries, meeting artists, going to art districts, art supply stores etc.

How much time do I have to spend supporting the Cuban people?

Full time. You can’t just do a few things. Your recreation time has to be commensurate with a full time schedule. This can be interpreted that as meaning 40 hours a week, but with a day of rest.

What records must you keep of your travel?

Keep an agenda and ledger of what you do and where you spend your money. (CFR 515.601). You have to keep it for 5 years and give it to US authorities for inspection if asked. (This almost never happens). You can easily just write down each place and activity that would relate after each day. 

Will I get interrogated at customs if I go to Cuba?

CBP (US customs) has no jurisdiction at all over OFAC enforcement. So, you are never going to be asked to produce a Cuba itinerary when entering the US, nor does CBP have the authority to fine you or detain you over OFAC Cuba travel regulations. It just isn’t their job. They protect the borders. They don’t care if you have been to Cuba. The most they could do to you related to Cuba travel is alert OFAC that you appear to them to be breaking the rules. But apparently that never happens.

If, theoretically, you were going to get into trouble over Cuba travel, it would not happen at the border. you would get a notice from the Treasury Department telling you to pay a fine or show up for a hearing. It’s worth noting that it’s been 20 years or so since any Cuba traveler has received a letter from OFAC, and I don’t believe OFAC has ever once scheduled a hearing. Millions of US citizens have traveled to Cuba without any trouble whatsoever.

Long story short, there is no current enforcement of Cuba travel regulations. Unless there is a big change, you can simply travel to Cuba and not worry about it.

Are there things I can’t do?

Yes. You can travel to Cuba legally, but it is illegal to have direct transactions with organizations under the direct control of the Cuban Government, military or intelligence. The State Department has a list of these restricted entities.  Do not write down anything to do with these groups in you daily agenda.

What did Trump change?

He requires you to now travel under this license. But it’s still allowed. The Treasury Dept issued a fact sheet about travel to Cuba under Trump.


Extract from: Why Not Cuba