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Americans and Cuba Travel - the Facts, Resources, Related Experiences [only]

Americans and Cuba Travel - the Facts, Resources, Related Experiences [only]

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Old Jun 16, 17, 1:39 pm   -   Wikipost
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WARNING: Trump speech in Miami today, June 16, 2017, announced (using the words "effective immediately") reinstatement of the tourist travel ban to Cuba. "Trump will re-impose the requirement that "people-to-people" travelers can only come to Cuba with heavily regulated tour groups. " for USA citizens and residents, that bans individual "self certified" travel to Cuba under the current OFAC 12 categories described below. That means (expensive) group travel for most, currently offered by travel and cruise companies (those will be allowed to continue).

US airlines will be allowed to continue to serve Cuba, but the new restrictions will mean most planning to travel individually will not be able to usevthese carriers (unless on authorized or licensed group travel).

Those groups with travel arrangements will probably have to make significant itinerary changes to conform with the policy's ban most American financial transactions with branches or businesses operated by the military-linked Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a conglomerate involved in many economic sectors in Cuba - including many hotels, state-run restaurants and tour buses.

Trump's recalibration of policy will most immediately affect the latitude of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Under Obama's relaxation of travel regulations, U.S. citizens could designate the purpose of their travel under one of 12 specific categories, which included the broadly defined "educational" travel and "people-to-people" travel. This "self-designation" mechanism contributed to a surge in travel over the last two years, with more than 600,000 tourists visiting the island in 2016.

But Trump's new restrictions eliminate the self-designation process, and according to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, "will end individual people-to-people travel." Unless U.S. travelers qualify for one of the specialized categories of travel—journalism, religious work or academic research, for example—they will have to travel with licensed tour groups and prove they spent all their time in Cuba doing people-to-people activities. The new directive empowers the Treasury Department to audit U.S. travelers and immigration officials will be able to demand records and journals from returning travelers to demonstrate they are in compliance with the new restrictions. Those who are not could face hefty government fines.

Under the new Trump regulations, those restrictions have been expanded to prohibit U.S. citizens from staying in, eating at, or spending any money at numerous state-owned hotels and other businesses that fall under the umbrella of Cuba's Business Enterprise Group (GAESA). GAESA, a conglomerate of economic entities controlled by the Cuban military, oversees up to 60 percent of the economic activity in Cuba. Besides hotels, GAESA controls restaurants, tourism buses and other economic and tourist-related agencies.

Trump's directive means that U.S. visitors will no longer be able to stay at some of Havana's most popular hotels, among them the elegant Saratoga favored by U.S. senators, governors and Congressional representatives who have visited Cuba over the last several years, and the Santa Isabel, where former President Jimmy Carter stayed during his two trips to the island. The five-star Gran Manzana Kempinski Havana Hotel that opened just last month also falls under the GAESA umbrella and will be off-limits to U.S. citizens. As a guide for future travelers, the State Department plans to publish a list of prohibited hotels and businesses they will now have to avoid. Link to source.
"WHEN DOES IT TAKE EFFECT?"

"The details of Trump’s new policy remain unwritten. In a presidential directive he signed at the end of his speech, he ordered the Treasury and Commerce departments to draw up new regulations to replace elements of Obama’s policy changes. White House officials said that actual changes remain months away." (Washington Post - link)

"The new realities of U.S. travel to Cuba will be determined by the regulations that federal agencies will produce as a result of the new policy. A presidential memorandum gives the government 90 days before it even starts to rewrite Cuba travel regulations, meaning it could be many months before it's clear what the change means for American travelers.

The Treasury Department said individuals who bought an airline ticket or rented a room or car before Trump's announcement could make additional travel-related purchases for that travel under the Obama policy, even if their trip to Cuba takes place after the new, stricter Trump regulations go into effect." (abc news - link)

Verify arrangements already made with your airline, travel provider, AirBnB, etc.

Please keep an eye on OFAC modifications, Cuba travel policies in the US etc. on the State Department site, etc. (see below). Once OFAC controls allow it, travel of U. S. tourists to Cuba will undoubtedly thrive.

Entry Requirements

Cuban officials now stamp all passports on entry and exit. The former practice of winking and stamping U.S. citizens in and out on a separate sheet of paper no longer takes place.

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction obtain a Treasury license before engaging in any transaction related to travel to, from and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Treasury Annex, Washington, DC 20220, telephone (202) 622-2480; fax (202) 622-1657, or via the web at Office of Foreign Assets Control.

For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers may contact the Cuban Embassy, an office of the Cuban government, located at 2630 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, telephone (202) 797-8518.
Further information, added 11 Jun 2016:

NOTE: When you arrive in the USA, DO declare Cuba on the U S Customs form 6059B. The USCBP officers generally do not care or give your travel to Cuba via Antigua or Cancún a second thought. But failing to disclose your travel to Cuba to a Federal agent? That's a violation of 18 U. S. Code § 1001, commonly called "making false statements", a felony punishable by up to five years in Federal Prison. Nope, you wouldn't, but such an offense would jeopardize GE / APHIS / PreCheck, etc. and could certainly incur enhanced scrutiny on re-entering the USA or flying into / out of a U.S. airport.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 link

NOTE: Travel to Cuba is still regulated (Jun 2016). American residents must meet one criterion of twelve categories of allowed travel to Cuba.

Tourist travel to Cuba is prohibited under U.S. law for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and others subject to U.S. jurisdiction. (USDOS)
"Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. There are, however, 12 categories of authorized travel. The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses in all 12 categories of authorized travel, subject to appropriate conditions. This means that individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the respective general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to travel to Cuba.

The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
"

U.S. Embassy, La Havana, Cuba (link)

Certain spend and other requirements must be met, in accord with regulations issued by the U. S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (link to PDF), and the Cuba Assets Control Regulations of 16 Mar 2016, 31 CFR 515 (link to PDF).

timaticweb2 through United Airlines, 10 Jun 2016:

Summary (US Citizen or Resident traveling from USA to Cuba, return ticket and normal, current passport with at least two blank visa pages at hand)

Conditional, The traveler will need to hold travel documents as detailed below.

Type: Notice

Cuba - Destination Visa

Visa required.

The following are exempt from holding a visa:

Passengers with a Tourist Card (Tarjeta del Turista) issued to visitors traveling as tourists.

Additional information:

Tourist Cards (Tarjeta del Turista) must be obtained prior to arrival in Cuba and are available at:
- Cuban Embassies or Consulates;
- Authorized Airlines;
- Travel agencies.

Tourist Cards (Tarjeta del Turista) grant a max. stay of 30 days to nationals of USA, and extension of stay for additional 30 days.

The length of stay must be covered by USD 50.- (or equivalent in other convertible currency, in cash or traveller's cheques) per person per day, unless passenger has previously contracted the touristic activities with MINTUR in Cuba.

Important

Former nationals of Cuba who left Cuba before 1971 must hold passports endorsed "Habilitado" for HE-11.

All visitors are required to hold a travel insurance to cover their medical expenses while in Cuba. The travel insurance can be bought on arrival in Cuba, but it is recommended to have it before departure to Cuba. (Reasonable and easy to purchase on arrival. JD)

Added 1/18/2017 All passengers arriving on flights direct from the US are automatically covered by Asistur (Cuban insurance company) medical insurance for 30 days. The cost is bundled into the ticket cost.

These passengers are never asked to provide proof of medical insurance by Cuban immigration at airports as they are aware this has been standard for many years. However it is a different situation dealing with a medical service provider if you actually need to use the insurance or Cuban immigration at places other than the airport if you have reason to extend or change status of your travel visa.

There is an official Asistur one page document that states everyone arriving on a direct flight from the US has Asistur insurance for 30 days. This document, your boarding pass, and your passport will show that you have medical insurance. This document is not available anywhere on line. Nor is it available to passengers even though it should be. So I am providing it for download.

I would encourage anyone flying direct to Cuba from the US to download this one page document, print it out, and carry a copy with them.

http://www.bobmichaels.org/Asistur.pdf
End addition 1/18/2017

Neither visa exemptions nor Tourist Card (Tarjeta del Turista) facilities are applicable to those holding foreign passports stating Cuba as place of birth. They will be considered Cuban nationals, unless holding a document signed by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proving withdrawal of their Cuban citizenship.

Cuba - Destination Health

This information is for guide purposes only. Other health organisations may recommend alternative precautions.

Vaccinations not required
NOTE: US Citizens and Residents must possess a current passport with a minimum of two empty visa (not note) pages.

You must exchange US Dollars to CUC - Cuban Convertible Pesos in authorized locations, and are required to spend CUC in Cuba (not dollars). CUC are not exportable out of Cuba. (Hint: the writer of this wikipost had no trouble exchanging Euro at decent market rates and found Euro accepted in some locations due to the prevalence of European tourists in Cuba.) Some US credit card acceptance is said to occur now, but if so it's a recent change.

At the airport CADECA booth you can change the last of your CUCs. Or you can buy duty-free items or books etc. sold from the government propaganda shop to spend the last of your CUCs.

Please read the extensive U.S. Department of State information regarding Cuba if you are a U.S. Citizen or Resident. Link.

US airlines begin commercial USA - Cuba flights by September 2016

In March, the USDOT accepted airline applications wishing to offer non-charter commercial flights between the USA and Cuba. On June 10, 2016 USDOT issued an order for six US airlines to operate flights between the USA and Cuba, to begin September 2016 HAV / La Habana flight orders to come this summer.)

Source links:

Yahoo! Finance (Link).

USA Today (link): "WASHINGTON — Six U.S. airlines were approved to begin the first scheduled flights to Cuba in more than 50 years, the Transportation Department announced Friday.

The airlines were approved to fly from five U.S. cities to nine Cuban cities other than Havana. But the department is still considering which airlines will get a combined 20 daily flights to the capital out of 60 proposals, which will be announced later this summer..."

Reuters: (link) "American (AAL.O) will have nonstop service from Miami, the largest Cuban community in the United States; Southwest (LUV.N), JetBlue (JBLU.O) and Silver Airways will fly from nearby Fort Lauderdale; Frontier will add flights from Chicago and Philadelphia; and Sun Country will serve Minneapolis."

(AA, Delta, Sun Country and others have been serving Cuba with charter flights operated for CTS / Cuba Travel Services for over 25 years.)

Updated 11 Jun 2016 - JDiver
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Old Apr 1, 14, 2:29 am
  #46  
 
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OFAC and related

I'm looking to travel to Cuba this coming May.

I am accompanying a few family friends. Due to OFAC, I am only paying for the flight from JFK-CUN and hotel in Cancun. All other fees, airfare, hotels, etc. will be paid by our friends who are not US citizens or residents (Actually everyone will be Chinese nationals, except for me).

Do I still need an authorization? The trip is arranged by a non-US company. If do need such authorization, how do I get apply for one when I'm living abroad?
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Old Apr 29, 14, 6:36 am
  #47  
 
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Originally Posted by JD3030 View Post
I just returned from a wonderful 7 day trip to Cuba. Again, I'm an American expat living in Canada. I traveled through the "back door" and arrived with a plane full of friendly Canadians (even though about half of the plane was from Quebec... only kidding, they're also quite friendly).

Upon entry and exit at the airport in Cuba my passport was not stamped. I was only asked if I live in Canada by a Cuban border control officer, not sure if this was his own personal interest or something they're encouraged to ask. But all together everything went smoothly. Also no hiccups crossing back into Canada. Between my wife and I we declared over $800 of goods, mostly Cigars (about 80). Now I just need to get a humidor to keep these babies fresh.

A new question: I have a business trip to the US next week followed by a long weekend with some friends before retuning back to Canada. I have Global Entry which I plan to use upon entry into the US. Is there any chance I might get tagged at the GE kiosk for my trip to Cuba? I'd like to bring a handful of Cubans back to share with my buddies but that might be too much to risk at this point.

In addition, I recently applied for Nexus and was conditionally approved for an interview (applied before going to Cuba). Planning to schedule this interview on my return flight to Canada in 2 weeks.
I was interested in your experience, JD3030, and whether you ran into any snags on your subsequent trips to the U.S.

I used to live in Canada and have Canadian as well as U.S. citizenship. I had many Canadian friends who traveled to Cuba, but never risked it myself, as I understood that it would still be illegal even if I traveled on my Canadian passport. I'm wondering now though whether my caution was excessive. A traveler in that situation wouldn't clear U.S. customs at any point and so wouldn't be asked if they visited Cuba. I guess I was worried about it somehow haunting me on a future visit to the U.S.?
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Old May 4, 14, 10:58 pm
  #48  
 
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I went to Cuba 18 months ago as an independent, unlicensed American citizen.

On returning to the US, I wrote "Cuba" on the form. I don't lie.

The CBP agent asked why I went to Cuba, I refused to answer, this led to a big blowup, secondary inspection, etc. Then they told me that they really didn't care if I went there as a tourist, so I admitted that. Then they let me go. I'm leaving out about two hours of sitting, intimidation, searching, interrogation, etc., all of which was triggered not by the fact that I went to Cuba but because I refused to tell them why.

I haven't gotten any letters about fines nor have I been delayed on numerous subsequent re-entries into the U.S.
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Old May 5, 14, 6:16 pm
  #49  
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
On returning to the US, I wrote "Cuba" on the form. I don't lie.
The way the form reads, I don't think it would have been a lie to omit Cuba. After it was all over, I'll bet the CBP agents wished you had omitted it.
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Old May 5, 14, 6:33 pm
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I think we all wish I had omitted it.
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Old May 5, 14, 10:54 pm
  #51  
 
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The CBP people do have every right to ask what you were doing abroad. I get the question frequently upon entering the U.S., and I've never been to Cuba. You made the decision to list "Cuba" on your form. Why not answer the question then?
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Old May 6, 14, 7:45 am
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I didn't want to admit that it was an unlicensed trip for tourism.

They have every right to ask anything they want. Americans have a right to decline to answer but still be readmitted. They disagreed with that last part. Hence the two hours.
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Old May 6, 14, 12:43 pm
  #53  
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I think a fair way to describe the Obama Administration's approach to unlicensed travel to Cuba is don't-ask-don't-tell. There haven't been any penalties for unlicensed transactions with Cuba since 2011. Listing Cuba on the form puts the agents in the position of having to ask.

These days you can arrive from Toronto with a sunburn in January, and the CPB agents are unlikely to inquire if you've been to Cuba.
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Old May 6, 14, 1:38 pm
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
They have every right to ask anything they want. Americans have a right to decline to answer but still be readmitted.
I disagree. We have the right to be readmitted to our own country, yes, but we never have the right to cross an international border, no questions asked. That includes our own border. I think dhuey is right: You put CBP in the position of having to ask. Your refusal to answer put them in the position of having to ask more forcefully. Refusing to answer seems like a reckless decision to me.
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Old May 6, 14, 1:57 pm
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Americans never have to answer questions from law enforcement officers at any time. If CBP can establish that a person is an American, that person should be permitted to re-enter the country without having to answer questions designed to determine if he has committed a crime, like "What were you doing outside the country" "Why did you go there?" "Who paid for your ticket," etc. An American who refuses to answer those questions should be readmitted.

What do you think CBP should do with an American who refuses to answer such questions and sticks to that? Hold him in the airport for the rest of his life?
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Old May 6, 14, 2:25 pm
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Well, lotsa luck with that approach, as you found out.
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Old May 6, 14, 5:21 pm
  #57  
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
I think dhuey is right: You put CBP in the position of having to ask. Your refusal to answer put them in the position of having to ask more forcefully. Refusing to answer seems like a reckless decision to me.
To be clear, I would strongly advise someone not to answer CBP questions about unlicensed Cuba travel. Be polite, but firmly invoke your right not to self-incriminate.

My point is that these days the rather easy way to avoid such questions in the first place is not to list Cuba among "Countries visited." In my opinion such an omission is by no means a lie. It's a lack of candor, to be sure, but you're not obliged to be candid. Just don't lie.

Last edited by dhuey; May 9, 14 at 2:09 pm Reason: typo
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Old May 7, 14, 1:55 am
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
The CBP people do have every right to ask what you were doing abroad. I get the question frequently upon entering the U.S., and I've never been to Cuba. You made the decision to list "Cuba" on your form. Why not answer the question then?

The CBP do have every right to ask what I was doing abroad?

The american law seems to be very interesting especially when you come from a country which had 80 years ago a secret police called gestapo and 25 years ago another secret police called stasi. I am very surprised.

I would not tell to my mother what I was doing in Cuba, Thailand or Switzerland but I have to tell to border control?
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Old May 7, 14, 4:31 am
  #59  
 
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Originally Posted by carpetbagger View Post
The CBP do have every right to ask what I was doing abroad?

The american law seems to be very interesting especially when you come from a country which had 80 years ago a secret police called gestapo and 25 years ago another secret police called stasi. I am very surprised.

I would not tell to my mother what I was doing in Cuba, Thailand or Switzerland but I have to tell to border control?
I do not agree that American citizens have to answer questions at the U.S. border, other than to establish that they are Americans. Once that is known, it is their right to enter the U.S. The anecdotal experience posted here demonstrates that.

Just because CBP can ask questions doesn't obligate Americans to answer them. Yes, we have the right to enter our own country anyway. Having said that, the CBP can obviously delay and inconvenience us, as anecdotal experience also demonstrates. But ultimately they have to let us go because yes, we do have the right to cross our own border.

At the end of the day, it comes down to whether it's worth it to you to make that point, or to cross the border as quickly and painlessly as possible.
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Old May 8, 14, 1:13 am
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Originally Posted by candyann View Post
I do not agree that American citizens have to answer questions at the U.S. border, other than to establish that they are Americans. Once that is known, it is their right to enter the U.S. The anecdotal experience posted here demonstrates that.

Just because CBP can ask questions doesn't obligate Americans to answer them. Yes, we have the right to enter our own country anyway. Having said that, the CBP can obviously delay and inconvenience us, as anecdotal experience also demonstrates. But ultimately they have to let us go because yes, we do have the right to cross our own border.

At the end of the day, it comes down to whether it's worth it to you to make that point, or to cross the border as quickly and painlessly as possible.
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