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What exactly qualifies for going under a general license

What exactly qualifies for going under a general license

Old Jun 5, 15, 6:53 pm
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What exactly qualifies for going under a general license

I know this has probably been asked ad nauseum, but I've been wading through a wealth of pages and discussions and still don't have a clear answer. If nothing else, hopefully this thread will be useful to others who have been similarly stumped.

I am not a student. I want to go to Cuba to see it before it changes drastically when the embargo is limited. I also want to go to learn Spanish there, and will enroll in an intensive course.

Is this alone sufficient to go under a general license? Otherwise, what kind of charity work would qualify?

I want to go through Cancun, not to be sneaky but because I have friends there I want to visit before going, and because I don't want to get ripped off by the agencies in the US who organize trips.

I'm actually planning to go at the end of this month, so hoping to work it all out pretty soon.

I'm a resident alien, not a citizen. Any and all advice would be welcome, thank you.
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Old Jun 5, 15, 7:24 pm
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Originally Posted by DallyingDingo View Post
I'm a resident alien, not a citizen. Any and all advice would be welcome, thank you.
Green card holder or some other non-permanent resident? It would seem you're not considered a "U.S. person" by OFAC if you're the latter.
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Old Jun 5, 15, 7:27 pm
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Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
Green card holder or some other non-permanent resident? It would seem you're not considered a "U.S. person" by OFAC if you're the latter.
Green card holder, so as far as I understand I'm subject to the exact same limitations as a citizen.

I don't mind doing charity work, tours, anything, I just want to be able to legitimately go under the general license. I want to take a spanish course while there, but I don't think that will be sufficient reason by itself.
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Old Jun 5, 15, 8:51 pm
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You're right that as a green-card holder, you have to abide by the same rules that a U.S. citizen does concerning travel to Cuba.

The educational general license requires you to be student or faculty at a U.S. university or school and participate in a program that your stateside educational institution arranges. Just going to Cuba and taking a class doesn't qualify.

Doing humanitarian work operates similarly. You'd have to sign on with a U.S. organization that's doing that kind of work in Cuba. Going to volunteer on your own wouldn't be allowed, nor would Cuba allow that.

Originally Posted by DallyingDingo View Post
I also want to go to learn Spanish there, and will enroll in an intensive course.
This isn't what you're asking, but if this is your motive, I'd say, don't go. Cuban Spanish is rough. It's one of the more difficult accents for non-speakers to understand. You may hear very careful textbook Spanish in the classroom, but when you step outside, you'll be immersed in a rapidly spoken language that clips a lot of consonants off. I was there this spring (journalist, all legal). I consider my Spanish very good, but, wow, I had a tough time. I think Mexico and Guatemala are better bets if learning Spanish is your primary goal.
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Old Jun 5, 15, 10:13 pm
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
This isn't what you're asking, but if this is your motive, I'd say, don't go. Cuban Spanish is rough. It's one of the more difficult accents for non-speakers to understand. You may hear very careful textbook Spanish in the classroom, but when you step outside, you'll be immersed in a rapidly spoken language that clips a lot of consonants off. I was there this spring (journalist, all legal). I consider my Spanish very good, but, wow, I had a tough time. I think Mexico and Guatemala are better bets if learning Spanish is your primary goal.
I understand that Cuba isn't the ideal place to learn Spanish, but it is only my secondary goal. My primary goal is to see Cuba as soon as possible before it drastically changes, which it will.

I've been learning Spanish already, and while I understand in the worst case scenario it may be a complete waste of money, I don't mind since it is so cheap.

That's incidental though, and my goal is to find a way to go legitimately under a general license in the next 3 weeks, or risk going anyway. I'd rather not risk it, but given how rarely Americans get fined I think it is worth it to see Cuba before I will only be able to know what it was like by hearing it from other people.
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Old Jun 5, 15, 10:39 pm
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I doubt you can arrange anything strictly legal in the next three weeks, other than signing on with a people-to-people tour. Those are expensive.

If you're discovered returning from Cuba via a third country would it jeopardize your U.S. immigration status? Remember, it's impossible now for Americans truly to go undetected. Cuba stamps all passports on entry and exit. There's no hiding that you've been there.

My primary goal is to see Cuba as soon as possible before it drastically changes, which it will.
I hear this a lot. What are these big changes that are coming? If McDonald's eventually opens in Havana and you object on principle, you don't go in. It's that simple. The average Cuban will never be able to afford to eat at the place. I really think such changes are still a long way off.
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Old Jun 6, 15, 1:21 am
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
If you're discovered returning from Cuba via a third country would it jeopardize your U.S. immigration status? Remember, it's impossible now for Americans truly to go undetected. Cuba stamps all passports on entry and exit. There's no hiding that you've been there.
Well, I'm on an Australian passport and there is a chance they won't stamp it. I note they are stamping US passports as a matter of policy, but I'm not sure if they would stamp an Aussie passport or not.

From all the research I have done the penalty is a fine. I don't think I would be risking my resident status, but it is a remote possibility (although I am unsure how remote) and so I don't know the risk is worth taking. I am still deciding.

I hear this a lot. What are these big changes that are coming? If McDonald's eventually opens in Havana and you object on principle, you don't go in. It's that simple. The average Cuban will never be able to afford to eat at the place. I really think such changes are still a long way off.
I have no experience with a situation directly like this, although I have been to just over 40 countries, and spent about seven years just basically backpacking, and wandering the earth for lack of a better phrase. I've seen a lot of countries and cities/towns change over time.

My understanding of Cuba at the moment is that it is somewhat stuck in time, and all the cars and technology is quite old. As the embargo decreases and is eventually lifted, I think Cuba will modernize quite quickly, and the economy will change as many people start to cater to the influx of American tourists.

I might be wrong, and it might not change drastically very fast, but I would much rather be able to see it just in case, because I do believe there is a high probability that it will change. Perhaps not drastically, but certainly noticeably.
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Old Jun 6, 15, 7:59 am
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You passport will be stamped. Period. Cuba is now stamping everybody on entry and exit.

My understanding of Cuba at the moment is that it is somewhat stuck in time, and all the cars and technology is quite old. As the embargo decreases and is eventually lifted, I think Cuba will modernize quite quickly ...
Yes, it's charming as heck for us to see a country stuck in a timewarp. But it's a struggle and a grind for Cubans, who have to make do with shortages of consumer goods and technology that doesn't work. Of course they'd like to modernize. As far as I'm concerned, that trumps our need to be "charmed."

It's not like there's no tourism in Cuba. The country gets 3 million visitors annually. It's just that Americans are way down the list in numbers. The majority of visitors heads to Havana or the beach resorts, like Varadero or Cayo Coco. When the Americans start arriving in greater numbers, I think that's where they'll go too. The Cuba that I enjoyed on this recent trip was the smaller places, such as Trinidad, Camaguey, Cienfuegos, and Santiago. I don't look for those places to change as fast, because they're not going to see the huge increase in numbers of visitors.

Cuba will still be Cuba, even if you don't get there three weeks from now.
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Old Jun 6, 15, 10:42 am
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You can go through Cancun or Toronto, for two examples, without problem.
At this moment in time, IMO the most informed regular travelers to Cuba, including US passport holders, are posting on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum.
Suggest you read some recent posts there and ask your questions. Latest seems to be that you just have to check a box (reason for travel) on a form, not apply for a license. Tourism is still not one of the boxes though.
Or consult by phone with a travel agency in Miami that is used to dealing with Cubans going to visit relatives, to see what updates they may have on requirements to go from Miami.
Happy travels.
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Old Jun 6, 15, 1:44 pm
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not apply for a license
The new term "general license" indicates that a blanket authorization is given to many travelers who fit into one of the 12 categories. In such cases, you no longer have to apply for licenses the way you used to have to.

The OP asked for the official version of the requirements. That's what I posted. Of course, many Americans go unofficially. That's a decision he'll have to make.

Last edited by SJOGuy; Jun 6, 15 at 1:50 pm
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Old Jun 6, 15, 3:19 pm
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
You passport will be stamped. Period. Cuba is now stamping everybody on entry and exit.
Do you have a reference for that?

Yes, it's charming as heck for us to see a country stuck in a timewarp. But it's a struggle and a grind for Cubans, who have to make do with shortages of consumer goods and technology that doesn't work. Of course they'd like to modernize. As far as I'm concerned, that trumps our need to be "charmed."
It's not about being 'charmed', and I feel that you are perhaps misrepresenting my goal here. I absolutely agree Cuba should modernize.

It's about witnessing a peice of history, that I can tell future kids and grandkids I personally witnesses and write about later.

Besides, Cuba modernizing, and my witnessing Cuba before modernizing are not mutually exclusive.

It's not like there's no tourism in Cuba. The country gets 3 million visitors annually. It's just that Americans are way down the list in numbers. The majority of visitors heads to Havana or the beach resorts, like Varadero or Cayo Coco. When the Americans start arriving in greater numbers, I think that's where they'll go too. The Cuba that I enjoyed on this recent trip was the smaller places, such as Trinidad, Camaguey, Cienfuegos, and Santiago. I don't look for those places to change as fast, because they're not going to see the huge increase in numbers of visitors.
When Americans are allowed in, that number could easily jump to 10 million or more, which could already have a drastic change.

You seem like you have been going there regularly, have you noticed any changes over the last year even? I ask, because part of my anxiety on 'missing' Cuba comes from people I have talked to who go there a lot, saying how much it has already changed.

Cuba will still be Cuba, even if you don't get there[ three weeks from now.
No doubt, but ideally I would have the chance to compare current Cuba with future Cuba, and see any changes for myself.

Last edited by DallyingDingo; Jun 6, 15 at 3:56 pm
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Old Jun 6, 15, 3:40 pm
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Here are the updated regs, which might help....or not:
http://www.treasury.gov/resource-cen...cfr515_new.pdf
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Old Jun 6, 15, 4:01 pm
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Originally Posted by DallyingDingo View Post
It's not about being 'charmed', and I feel that you are misrepresenting my goal ehre.
You're right. That wasn't fair. I'm sorry. But I'm sure change can't come fast enough for Cubans. They ache to have access to consumer goods and decent technology. They desperately need to move on from this current phase of stunted development. I doubt they give a hoot about our being able to witness it.

All passports are now stamped for all nationalities, coming and going, per a phone interview I did with an immigration official in Havana. I'm researching such info for a guidebook I'm working on.

My first trip was two months ago. I'd never been before. I'm tentatively headed back later this summer. I live in Costa Rica. I swear I'm the last American I know here who had never been to Cuba. Everyone else I know has gone and they went long before the travel restrictions loosened up.

You asked for the official story. I gave it to you. The rest is up to you.
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Old Jun 8, 15, 5:03 pm
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Originally Posted by DallyingDingo View Post
Do you have a reference for that?
Believe what you like but from what I understand, Cuba is currently stamping everyone's passport. They're not afraid of the consequences of the U.S. pros- (or pers)-ecuting a few of its citizens for visiting Cuba.

When Americans are allowed in, that number could easily jump to 10 million or more, which could already have a drastic change.
I can tell you that the way Cuba is set up, it will be a long time before the cities will be swamped with visitors (other than those who come only for the day and disappear at night, like in some small but immensely-popular villages in Europe). The reason for this is that there is precious little tourism infrastructure (i.e., hotels) outside the resort areas (or maybe more specifically, Varadero). Unless Cubans decide for a change of government and go for the neo-liberal lassaize-faire model, the government is going about tourist development in a very deliberate way: Renovating old buildings instead of tearing them down and building a new, modern and/or uncharacteristic monstrosity. In Havana and other cities, you'll see old buildings being renovated and restored, converted into hotels and other businesses, rather than build anew. It's wonderful because it retains the charm. Look around Havana and you'll see some ruins, such as buildings with only 3 external walls left, propped up by scaffolding, so that they can be rebuild in the future.

One way Cuba has been increasing tourist capacity is by liberal licensing of casa particulars which allows the independent and small-group tourists to find a place to stay (some hotels such as in Vinales and CIenfuegos seem to be almost always booked).


You should look at the 8th categoty of license, "Support the Cuban People". It would appear that by staying in CPs, travelling in TPs, eating in paladars etc, you can say you are supporting private enterprise in Cuba.
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Old Jun 8, 15, 7:29 pm
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Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
You should look at the 8th categoty of license, "Support the Cuban People". It would appear that by staying in CPs, travelling in TPs, eating in paladars etc, you can say you are supporting private enterprise in Cuba.
To comply with the law, it has to be more structured than that. You have to go under the auspices of an international organization that works in human rights or democracy. I doubt that "I stayed in casas particulares and got to know people, and let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me" qualifies.

Remember also that whatever it is you're doing in Cuba as one of the 12 categories of activity, you have to engage in the work full time. No leisure activity, no recreation other than what is consistent with full-time work.

Here's the thing: Now that we no longer have to apply for an individual license, much of this is now on the honor system. You can go and claim that you fit into one of the 12 categories. If questioned, you'd better be able to back it up.
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