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Travel to Cuba for a dual US/Canadian citizen

Travel to Cuba for a dual US/Canadian citizen

Old Feb 17, 11, 1:24 pm
  #1  
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Travel to Cuba for a dual US/Canadian citizen

Hello all,

I'm a dual citizen of the US and Canada, living in the US.
I'd like to accompany my Canadian parents on a trip to Cuba.
I'm considering driving up to Canada, flying to Cuba on my Canadian passport, then re-entering the US with my US passport. (I frequently do this drive and the passport swap: entering Canada with the Canadian passport and vice versa is perfectly fine.)

Since the US now requires airlines to submit passenger manifests for flights that fly over the US, is getting caught something I should be concerned about? I could always fly to Cancun and onwards to Havana, but it would be nice if we could all go down together.

Thanks!
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Old Feb 17, 11, 2:32 pm
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My understanding is that the US government does not permit US citizens to travel to Cuba without permission. They would, of course, consider you as a US citizen for this purpose whatever passport you were travelling on. Whether or not the US authorities would find out that you had travelled to Cuba – or, in reality, actually care – is a different matter.

There is obviously no problem, as far as the US is concerned, with your using your Canadian passport to travel out of Canada to a third destination, and again back to Canada from that third destination.

If in doubt, I'd be inclined not to have the US–Canada–Cuba trip (and vice versa) on the one ticket, and by this means I'd avoid through check-ins for the whole journey.

Last edited by Christopher; Feb 17, 11 at 2:40 pm
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Old Feb 17, 11, 3:01 pm
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If you are flying to Cuba on your Canadian passport and have a somewhat common name I think you'll be fine.

Even if you have a name that's the only one out there (like "XsdafasZXas sfsdf34rfwe") I doubt they would make the connection.
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Old Feb 17, 11, 3:14 pm
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Anyone know if people are still getting warnings/fines from the government for engaging in illegal travel to Cuba? Being in academia, I know that the Bush Administration really tighened the screws regarding travel to Cuba for students circa 2008, and our University stopped sending them because the qualifications for a "legal" trip to Cuba suddenly fell too far outside the scope/goals of our academic programs. I was keeping up with issues in the Cuban-American community quote closely at that time, and many people who were traveling to see family or for other reasons who didn't take precautions (on purpose or otherwise) against the US government finding out were regularly getting slapped with ridiculous fines.

I would bet that the Obama Administration has bigger fish to fry right now (and I'm not condoning the OP going to Cuba on *that* account), but I was just curious...
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Old Feb 19, 11, 12:55 am
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Originally Posted by icedancer View Post
Anyone know if people are still getting warnings/fines from the government for engaging in illegal travel to Cuba?
How could they? US law is not applicable in Cuba. You would probably have to get permission to book a ticket from the US to Cuba, so no one could fly from the US to Cuba, and those who do two legs are outside US jurisdiction.

A lawyer might give a better answer, but if the OP flies from Canada to Cuba, theoretically he could announce it on youtube with video saying in-your-face-Bush, and get a cuba stamp on his US passport. He would be in the clear because he was wholly outside US jurisdiction, where US statutes do not apply (as the US was not the departure point).
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Old Feb 19, 11, 1:06 am
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Originally Posted by EUnomad View Post
How could they? US law is not applicable in Cuba. You would probably have to get permission to book a ticket from the US to Cuba, so no one could fly from the US to Cuba, and those who do two legs are outside US jurisdiction.

A lawyer might give a better answer, but if the OP flies from Canada to Cuba, theoretically he could announce it on youtube with video saying in-your-face-Bush, and get a cuba stamp on his US passport. He would be in the clear because he was wholly outside US jurisdiction, where US statutes do not apply (as the US was not the departure point).
Yes, but US law still applies when the person returns to the US. The fact that a person is outside the physical jurisdiction of a country does not mean that he or she cannot be in breach of the law of that country...

Last edited by Christopher; Feb 19, 11 at 1:16 am
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Old Feb 19, 11, 1:19 am
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Originally Posted by Christopher View Post
Yes, but US law still applies when the person returns to the US. The fact that a person is outside the physical jurisdiction of a country does not mean that he or she cannot be in breach of the law of that country...
This makes no sense. Why doesn't the DEA arrest anyone seen smoking mj in Amsterdam, when they make their way back to the US? It's not because the cops can't get custody of the suspect -- it's because the alleged criminal is not subject to one jurisdictions statutes on the soil of another.
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Old Feb 19, 11, 1:22 am
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Originally Posted by EUnomad View Post
How could they? US law is not applicable in Cuba. You would probably have to get permission to book a ticket from the US to Cuba, so no one could fly from the US to Cuba, and those who do two legs are outside US jurisdiction.

A lawyer might give a better answer, but if the OP flies from Canada to Cuba, theoretically he could announce it on youtube with video saying in-your-face-Bush, and get a cuba stamp on his US passport. He would be in the clear because he was wholly outside US jurisdiction, where US statutes do not apply (as the US was not the departure point).
I'm a lawyer so I will give a better answer (note: not legal advice). US law can apply to US citizens anywhere (and can even apply to non-citizens outside the US in certain circumstances, such as anti-terrorism laws and securities laws).

The key point is whether the US can or will enforce the law. The US government has extremely limited law enforcement monitoring resources outside the US, and also usually cannot go to a foreign country to arrest you unless they team up with the local government (which implies that you have to be breaking local law as well).

However, if you were to go on YouTube and publicize your presence in Cuba, and if a federal agent came across the video and had a mandate to enforce the law, you could easily be stopped, arrested and slapped with fines the moment you step off of your returning flight in the US. Even if you never set foot in the US again, the government could theoretically seize any assets you left behind in the US (including cash in American bank accounts) while you are gone. This probably doesn't happen often because most people daring enough to break the embargo are discreet about it.
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Old Feb 19, 11, 2:30 am
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Originally Posted by EUnomad View Post
This makes no sense. Why doesn't the DEA arrest anyone seen smoking mj in Amsterdam, when they make their way back to the US? It's not because the cops can't get custody of the suspect -- it's because the alleged criminal is not subject to one jurisdictions statutes on the soil of another.
Probably because it is not against US law for a US citizen to smoke marijuana in Amsterdam.

As an example, it is illegal for an Australian citizen to engage in sex with a minor anywhere in the world. Accordingly, an Australian citizen who has done that can be prosecuted on return to Australia.

Similarly, it is illegal, under US law, for a US citizen to go to Cuba (without permission). The fact that the crime may be committed not on US soil (e.g. by travelling to Cuba from a third country and leaving Cuba to go to a third country) doesn't make it any less illegal. I'm not defending this law – I think it's daft – but it is still the law as it stands.
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Old Feb 19, 11, 7:06 am
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Originally Posted by Christopher View Post
Similarly, it is illegal, under US law, for a US citizen to go to Cuba (without permission). The fact that the crime may be committed not on US soil (e.g. by travelling to Cuba from a third country and leaving Cuba to go to a third country) doesn't make it any less illegal. I'm not defending this law I think it's daft but it is still the law as it stands.
That is not the law. Wrong information on this subject abounds. US citizens can travel to Cuba. They are prohibited from spending money there, that is it. The net effect may be similar, but they are most definitely not prohibited from travel to Cuba.

There are numerous exceptions to even that. Citizens with relatives in Cuba can send money to said relatives and can also travel to visit. Us businesspeople can travel to Cuba on approved business trips (Cuba is a major buyer of US wheat, for example). Us citizens can get approval for educational or cultural programs. The exceptions permit US citizens to legally spend money in Cuba.

The problem comes because the US assumes that if one travels to Cuba one spends money there. Thus the need for permission.

Many US citizens with another nationality travel to Cuba on their non-US passport. So long as they do not travel on one of the many flights on AA and others from the US to Cuba there is not an issue. They cannot take those flights because a US citizen must enter and leave the US on a US passport.

Those people doing this may commit a technical violation, but it is hard to imagine any problem from so doing. This is in the realm of technical violations. If one is a US citizen of Cuban ancestry, of course, it is perfectly legal to spend the money also. Is it worth worrying about a technical violation like that? Not for me?
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Old Feb 19, 11, 8:39 am
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Originally Posted by jbcarioca View Post
That is not the law. Wrong information on this subject abounds. US citizens can travel to Cuba. They are prohibited from spending money there, that is it. The net effect may be similar, but they are most definitely not prohibited from travel to Cuba.

There are numerous exceptions to even that. Citizens with relatives in Cuba can send money to said relatives and can also travel to visit. Us businesspeople can travel to Cuba on approved business trips (Cuba is a major buyer of US wheat, for example). Us citizens can get approval for educational or cultural programs. The exceptions permit US citizens to legally spend money in Cuba.

The problem comes because the US assumes that if one travels to Cuba one spends money there. Thus the need for permission.

Many US citizens with another nationality travel to Cuba on their non-US passport. So long as they do not travel on one of the many flights on AA and others from the US to Cuba there is not an issue. They cannot take those flights because a US citizen must enter and leave the US on a US passport.

Those people doing this may commit a technical violation, but it is hard to imagine any problem from so doing. This is in the realm of technical violations. If one is a US citizen of Cuban ancestry, of course, it is perfectly legal to spend the money also. Is it worth worrying about a technical violation like that? Not for me?
BTW, nobody needs to broadcast on YouTube that they were there and spent money. The US buys the airline passenger manifests from just about every airline that flies there (except Cubana and and Venezuelan airlines), so they know who has gone. If you lie on your entry form about what countries you visited on your most recent trip out of the US, then you can get in trouble for that, too.
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Old Feb 19, 11, 8:56 am
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Probably not all the manifests. Nothing is likely to match non-US passports of US citizens unless they are registered for Global Entry or another such program. As for where you have been, the question itself is ambiguous. US Immigration sometimes complains to me that I list too many countries. They say they only want to know "on this trip" whatever that means.
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Old Feb 19, 11, 9:14 am
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Old Feb 19, 11, 9:25 am
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Originally Posted by jbcarioca View Post
That is not the law. Wrong information on this subject abounds. US citizens can travel to Cuba. They are prohibited from spending money there, that is it. The net effect may be similar, but they are most definitely not prohibited from travel to Cuba.

There are numerous exceptions to even that. Citizens with relatives in Cuba can send money to said relatives and can also travel to visit. Us businesspeople can travel to Cuba on approved business trips (Cuba is a major buyer of US wheat, for example). Us citizens can get approval for educational or cultural programs. The exceptions permit US citizens to legally spend money in Cuba.

The problem comes because the US assumes that if one travels to Cuba one spends money there. Thus the need for permission.

Many US citizens with another nationality travel to Cuba on their non-US passport. So long as they do not travel on one of the many flights on AA and others from the US to Cuba there is not an issue. They cannot take those flights because a US citizen must enter and leave the US on a US passport.

Those people doing this may commit a technical violation, but it is hard to imagine any problem from so doing. This is in the realm of technical violations. If one is a US citizen of Cuban ancestry, of course, it is perfectly legal to spend the money also. Is it worth worrying about a technical violation like that? Not for me?
Thanks, jbcarioca!

The fact remains, though, that it is possible for a US citizen to commit a crime under US law even though he or she may not be in the USA at the time. (And the USA is far from alone in this.)

Whether in the circumstances of the OP the US authorities would know or seek to find out, or much care, is a different matter, of course.
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Old Feb 19, 11, 9:58 am
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Originally Posted by Christopher View Post
Probably because it is not against US law for a US citizen to smoke marijuana in Amsterdam.
Have a look at title 46, ch 38 1903 of the US code. There is a prohibition on possession with intent to manufacture applying to all US citizens of any vessel worldwide. Note that the vessel need not be a "US vessel" if a US citizen is on board. Consequently, if a US person carrying seeds steps on a boat in Amsterdam, they are violating section 1903 of the US code. I'm quite surprised to be hearing recently that US law stretches worldwide.

I haven't found the more relevant code yet.. dealing with possession of mj w/ intent to use. It would be interesting to verify that it excludes Amsterdam, as you've suggested.
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