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U.S. Eases Rules on Travel to Cuba: What You Need to Know

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on January 15, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The U.S. government is set to begin easing its long-standing rules restricting travel to Cuba on Friday.

The Obama administration announced the changes on Thursday, reports The New York Times. In December, President Obama has previously said that the U.S. and Cuba would resume full diplomatic relations for the first time in more than 50 years, including hosting a U.S. embassy in Havana.

What do these new rule changes mean for those interested in traveling to Cuba?

Tourism Still Not Authorized

Although the new rules make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, general tourism is still not permitted. According to the Treasury Department's website, travel to Cuba will remain restricted for those not traveling for one of 12 specific categories of activities allowed under the new rules.

These categories include:

  • Family visits;
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments or intergovernmental agencies;
  • Journalistic activity;
  • Professional research and meetings;
  • Educational activities;
  • Religious activities;
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, and athletic or other competitions and exhibitions;
  • Support for the Cuban people;
  • Humanitarian projects;
  • Activities of private foundations, research institutes, or educational institutes;
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and
  • Certain authorized export transactions.

The good news is that those traveling for any of the above categories will be granted a general license and will not be required to submit a written request to the Office of Foreign Assets Control in order to travel to Cuba.

Spending Rules

The new rules also allow for expanded commerce and trade between the United States and Cuba. Under the new rules, travelers to Cuba will no longer be subject to spending regulations while on the island and will be allowed to use U.S. debit and credit cards there.

Travelers will also be able to bring back purchased goods from the island, including up to $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. This means that fans of Cuban cigars will finally be able to bring a few home without risking criminal charges.

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