Excerpted from the New York Times
Before any changes of US Cuba trade and travel policies can be changed, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) needs to publish newly updated regulations.
The new regulations are expected to be published some time in January.
Currently, General licenses, which require no special application or permission are currently authorized for the types of travel listed below. Note that General licenses are not printed on any paper. A traveler simply states he or she has traveled to Cuba on a General license for reasons such as:
US Travel to Cuba Changes
1. Persons visiting a “close relative” who is a Cuban national and “persons traveling with them who share a common dwelling as a family with them.” (Obama authorized this in 2009.)
2. Government business.
3. Journalists regularly employed at a news organization.
4. Certain researchers and professionals.
5. Certain college faculty and students or others participating in educational activities.
6. Certain religious activities.
7. Telecommunications providers. (Obama authorized telecommunications providers to pursue licensing agreements in 2009.)
8. Producers or distributors of agricultural or medical goods.
9. Other specific licenses to travel are granted on a case-by-case basis.
Under President Obama’s direction, OFAC is expected to open up general licenses to travel to Cuba for the reasons listed below, which previously required approval on a case-by-case basis:
1. Public performances, workshops and athletic competitions.
2. Support for the Cuban people, including human rights work.
3. Humanitarian work.
4. Private foundations and institutes.
5. Information dissemination.
6. Travel related to export of authorized products.
As you can see, all the travel is “purposeful” travel so don’t plan to go to Cuba for a beach vacation. However, note that travelers do not need to “check in” or get some card stamped saying that you have to prove what you did every day while in Cuba. It is a good idea to have an itinerary with you upon return to the US.
US Banking and Trade Changes
Currently, no transactions involving the property of a Cuban national (including purchasing Cuban cigars in third countries or signing a Cuba-related contract with a foreign firm). However, the following changes are expected to be allowed when the new OFAC regulations are published.
United States institutions will be able to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions.
Travelers to Cuba will be allowed to use American credit and debit cards.
United States entities in third countries will be allowed to engage in transactions and meetings with Cuban individuals in third countries.
Exports to Cuba are limited to certain agricultural goods and medical devices. Imports from Cuba include most art and information materials. However, the following items are expected to be allowed when the new OFAC regulations are published.
1. Certain items that support the Cuban private sector will be allowed for export from the US to Cuba, including certain building materials and agricultural equipment.
2. Certain items that support telecommunications in Cuba will be allowed for export, and companies will be allowed to establish related infrastructure.
3. Licensed American travelers will be able to import $400 worth of goods (including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol).
US Transfer of Money to Cuba
Authorized travelers are now permitted to carry $3,000 in remittances to Cuba. There are no limits on remittances to religious organizations.
There are no limits on sending remittances to close relatives. (Obama authorized this in 2009.)
Remittances of up to $500 per quarter may be made to any Cuban national for humanitarian needs. - That limit will be raised to $2,000 a quarter.
Licenses are required for remittance forwarding services (other than depository institutions). - Licenses will no longer be required.