Legal Travel to Cuba

Under U.S. regulations, there are several general authorizations, called General Licenses, that authorize U.S. travelers to travel to Cuba without the need to apply to the government for authorization. In order to travel under one of these General Licenses, the U.S. travelers must satisfy certain requirements.

One of the most commonly used authorizations is for "people-to-people" travel. More information about "people-to-people" is provided below.

The other categories of authorized travel are:

  • Family Visits
  • Professional Research and Professional Meetings
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions
  • Educational Activities, other than people-to-people travel
  • Journalistic Activity
  • Religious Activities
  • Support for the Cuban People
  • Humanitarian Projects
  • Activities for private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Official business of the U.S. Government, foreign government, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
  • Exportation of BIS Authorized or Licensed Goods.

Information about all of these General Licenses can be found on the website for the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/cuba.aspx. OFAC is responsible for administering the U.S. regulations concerning Cuba.

A complete list of the requirements for each General License is located in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515, which can be accessed at www.ecfr.gov.

When booking online with CTN, U.S. citizens are required to sign a Certificate indicating the purpose of travel, under one of the mentioned categories.

What constitutes "people-to-people travel" for generally authorized travel?

Individuals are authorized to travel to Cuba under a General License (general authorization) for "people-to-people" travel if they engage in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba and which are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities.

The predominant portion of the activities cannot be with certain high-ranking officials of the Government of Cuba or certain prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.

Persons relying on this authorization must retain records sufficient to demonstrate that each individual traveler has engaged in a full-time schedule of activities that satisfy the requirements identified above. These records must be furnished to the Office of Foreign Assets Control on demand.

Individuals can travel to Cuba either (i) on their own people-to-people program or (ii) under the auspices of a U.S. organization which operates the people-to-people program.

Cuba Travel Network assists travelers in developing their own people-to-people travel; it does not operate these programs. It is the responsibility of each traveler to make certain that the travelers satisfies the requirements of U.S. regulations.

For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.565(b).

What constitutes a "people-to-people" activity?

There are many types of activities that can satisfy the requirement that travelers engage in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.

Cuba Travel Network has incorporated many such activities in its proposed itineraries. For example, staying with a Cuban family in their home, offering a farm-to-table program, visiting cultural and ecological venues.

OFAC also gives the following examples of activities which do and do not satisfy the requirements.

OFAC Example of Qualifying Activity: An individual participates in discussions with Cuban artists on community projects, exchanges with the founders of a youth arts program, and engage in extended dialogue with local city planners and architects to learn about historical restoration projects in Old Havana.

OFAC Example of Qualifying Activity: An individual participates in discussions with Cuban farmers and produce sellers about cooperative farming and agricultural practices and have extended dialogue with religious leaders about the influence of African traditions and religion on society and culture.

OFAC Example of a Non-Qualifying Activity: An individual rents a bicycle to explore the streets of Havana, engage in brief exchanges with shopkeepers while making purchases, and have casual conversations with waiters at restaurants and hotel staff.

Transactions related to activities that are primarily tourist-oriented, including self-directed educational activities that are intended only for personal enrichment, are not authorized.

What constitutes "public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions" for generally authorized travel?

OFAC has issued a general license that authorizes travel to Cuba in order to participate in or organize a public performance, clinic, workshop, non-athletic competition, or exhibition in Cuba, provided that the event is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.567.

What constitutes "a close relative" for generally authorized family travel?

OFAC regulations generally authorize U.S. persons and those sharing a dwelling with them as a family to visit a close relative in Cuba and certain other individuals in Cuba. A close relative is defined as any individual related to a person "by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person." For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.339 and § 515.561.

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