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Who Can Legally Travel to Cuba?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on November 09, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Earlier this year, President Obama lifted restrictions put in place by the Bush Administration, making it easier for American citizens to legally travel to Cuba.

Though access has increased, it is not unlimited. Most U.S. citizens cannot spend money in Cuba, or engage in travel-related transactions to and from the country. They thus can't legally travel to Cuba, even if they go through Canada or Latin America.

It is only those who are granted a general or specific license by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that may travel to Cuba.

OFAC has granted general licenses to the following people. They can legally travel to Cuba without first seeking permission:

  • Those visiting a close relative who is a Cuban national
  • Journalists and necessary personnel
  • Full-time professionals conducting academic research in Cuba
  • Full-time professionals attending a related meeting in Cuba
  • Those travelling on behalf of a producer/distributer of agricultural commodities, medicine or medical devices

The following people will need to apply for a specific license:

  • Those visiting family members who are not Cuban nationals
  • Persons travelling on behalf of religious organizations
  • Persons engaging in humanitarian activities
  • Athletes and artists participating in certain events

The following people are covered by licensed U.S. educational institutions:

  • Students travelling as part of a 10-week course
  • Students conducting research towards their degrees
  • Students attending a Cuban university and receiving credit
  • Persons organizing educational activities and teaching

The above is not an exhaustive list of who may legally travel to Cuba. Those not covered should thus contact the OFAC for more information on the rules.

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