How to Enter Cuba

Do I need a passport or visa to enter?

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations are enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically located in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world. The regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba, or that the transactions in question be exempt from licensing requirements. 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. U.S. law enforcement authorities enforce these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of the Treasury regulations could face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

Although Cuba may issue visas upon arrival to U.S. citizens, all travelers to Cuba, including religious workers, should contact the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to have the appropriate type of visa ahead of time and, if required, specific authorization from Cuban authorities. Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, and sells a temporary policy to those who do not have it. Questions about this insurance requirement should be directed to the Cuban Interests Section. Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Cuba. Cuban authorities do not demand HIV tests of travelers to Cuba, with the exception of foreign students on scholarships. The Cuban authorities accept the results of HIV tests conducted by labs in the United States.

General licenses are available for certain categories of travel. General licenses constitute authorization for those transactions set forth in the relevant provision of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. No further permission from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is required to engage in transactions covered by a general license.

Specific licenses are also available for certain categories of travel. OFAC will consider the issuance of specific licenses on a case-by-case basis to permit travel-related transactions where the proposed activity is not covered by a general license but is addressed by one of the statements of licensing policy listed in section 31 C.F.R. part 515.560(a) and set forth in a related section of the Regulations. A specific license applicant must wait for OFAC to issue the license prior to engaging in travel-related transactions.

For further information on travel to Cuba under a general or a specific license, consult the OFAC publication Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba. You should also visit OFAC’s Cuba Sanctions website.

The United States maintains a broad embargo against trading with Cuba, and most commercial imports from Cuba are prohibited by law. Most exports are also prohibited, unless licensed by the Department of Commerce or subject to a Department of Commerce license exception. Sales of items in certain sectors, including medicine, medical devices and supplies, and agricultural commodities, have been approved for export by specific legislation. The Department of the Treasury may issue licenses on a case-by-case basis authorizing Cuba travel-related transactions directly incident to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, and servicing of exports and re-exports that appear consistent with the licensing policy of the Department of Commerce.
Additional information may be obtained by contacting:

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; 1-800-540-6322
Fax (202) 622-1657

Cuban Requirements for Authorized Travelers

Should a traveler receive a license, a valid passport is required for entry into Cuba. The Cuban government also requires that the traveler obtain a visa prior to arrival. Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or other persons, are contrary to Cuban law and are punishable by stiff jail terms. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace (generally within 12 nautical miles of the Cuban coast) without prior authorization from the Cuban government may result in arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities. Immigration violators are subject to prison terms ranging from four years for illegal entry or exit to as many as 30 years for aggravated cases of alien smuggling.

Civilian Aircraft Travel

The Cuban Air Force shot down two U.S.-registered civilian aircraft in international airspace in 1996. As a result of this action, the President of the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an “Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement of Policy,” which allows for vigorous enforcement action against U.S.-registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace.

For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact:

Cuban Interests Section (an office of the Cuban government)
2630 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8518/8520
Fax (202) 797-8521

Consular Section (part of the Cuban Interests Section)
2639 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8609/8610/8615
Fax (202) 986-7283

Temporary Sojourn License
Exports of aircraft or vessels on temporary sojourn to Cuba will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Temporary sojourn licenses are not available for pleasure boaters. Additional information is available at the Bureau of Industry and Security website. Vessels of the United States, as defined in 33 CFR §107.200, may not enter Cuban territorial waters without advance permission from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides permission information at (305) 415-6920.

Special Travel Circumstances in Cuba

Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail, and airport facilities is forbidden.

Dual Nationality
The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are born in Cuba or the U.S. nationality of those born in the U.S. to Cuban parents.

These individuals will be treated solely as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of restrictions and obligations, including military service. The Cuban government may require U.S.-Cuban dual citizens ("dual nationals") to enter and depart Cuba using a Cuban passport. Using a Cuban passport for this purpose does not jeopardize one's U.S. citizenship; however, such persons must use their U.S. passports to enter and depart the United States. Although the Cuban government lifted its exit permission requirement for most Cubans in January 2013, in some instances, dual nationals may be required to obtain exit permission from the Cuban government in order to return to the United States. There have been cases of dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports. Despite these restrictions, dual nationals who fall ill may only be treated at hospitals for foreigners (except in emergencies). See the Consular Access paragraph below for information on Cuba's denial of consular services to dual nationals who have been arrested, as well as the Children’s Issues paragraph below for information on how dual nationality may affect welfare inquiries and custody disputes.

Dual nationals should be especially wary of any attempt by Cuban authorities to compel them to sign “repatriation” documents. The Government of Cuba views a declaration of repatriation as a legal statement on the part of the dual national that she/he intends to resettle permanently in Cuba.

In several instances, the Government of Cuba has seized the U.S. passports of dual nationals signing declarations of repatriation and has denied these individuals permission to return to the United States.

Consular Access
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. The original should be kept in a secure location, preferably in a safe or locked suitcase.

Cuba does not recognize the right or obligation of the U.S. Government to protect Cuban-born U.S. citizens, whom the Cuban government views as Cuban citizens only. Cuban authorities do not generally notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest of dual nationals and may deny U.S. consular officers access to them. They also withhold information concerning the welfare and treatment of dual nationals.

Currency Regulations
Since November 2004, the U.S. dollar has not been accepted for commercial transactions. U.S.-issued debit and credit cards also are not accepted in Cuba. The Cuban government requires the use of convertible Cuban pesos or non-convertible Cuban pesos (“moneda nacional”) for all transactions. The official exchange rate for convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) is 1 USD = 1 CUC, however a 10 percent fee for exchanging U.S. dollars and other transaction fees make the effective exchange rate at hotels, the airport, and currency exchange houses 1 USD = 0.90 CUC. The current exchange rate for CUC to non-convertible Cuban pesos (CUP) is 1 CUC = 24 CUP.

Cuba-Related Travel Transactions
Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above (under “Entry Requirements/ Travel Transaction Limitations”) may be authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to spend money related to travel to, from, or within Cuba. For more information, the OFAC publication Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_tr_app.pdf.

Licenses for Remittances
U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send remittances to a close relative in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country under certain circumstances. U.S. persons are also authorized to send emigration-related remittances to enable the payee to emigrate from Cuba to the United States, and remittances to religious organizations in Cuba in support of religious activities, under certain circumstances. For more information on the requirements relating to these and other remittance authorizations, see the OFAC publication Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_tr_app.pdf.

U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal checks nor travelers’ checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba.

Exportation of Accompanied Baggage
As of September 3, 2009, there is no longer a weight limit on the accompanied baggage per traveler.

What Can Be Brought Back
If U.S. travelers return from Cuba with goods of Cuban origin, such goods, with the exception of informational materials, may be seized at U.S. Customs’ discretion [Section 515.204 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 31]. Cuban cigars and rum are routinely confiscated at U.S. ports of entry. Purchasing Cuban cigars and rum in a "duty-free" shop at the Havana Airport does not exempt them from seizure by U.S. Customs. There are no limits on the import or export of informational materials [31 C.F.R. section 515.206]. Information and informational materials such as books, films, artworks, posters, photographs, tapes, CDs and certain artwork are statutorily exempt from regulation under the embargo and may be transported freely; however, blank tapes and CDs are not considered informational materials and may be seized. To be considered informational material, artworks must be classified under Chapter subheading 9701, 9702, or 9703 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (for example, original paintings, drawings, pastels, engravings, prints, and sculptures are all exempt.)

Fair Business Practices
Anyone authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide Cuban travel services or services in connection with sending money to Cuba is prohibited from participating in the discriminatory practices of the Cuban government against individuals or particular classes of travelers. The assessment of consular fees by the Cuban government, which are applicable worldwide, is not considered to be a discriminatory practice; however, requiring the purchase of services not desired by the traveler is prohibited. Information provided to the U.S. Department of the Treasury regarding arbitrary fees, payments for unauthorized purposes, or other possible violations will be handled confidentially.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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