Can U.S. citizens travel to Cuba legally as individuals?

Interview


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Disclaimer

I am not a lawyer. I am not pretending to be a lawyer. I am not selling, offering or giving away legal advice.

Check everything I say with your own research, common sense, and your own attorney.

Travel journalists and tour companies which charge $300 to $500+ a day for $100 worth of services (or less) aren’t going to do your research for you. They would like you to believe that you can’t visit Cuba legally without their “assistance.”

This audio explains the other side of the story

First, read the law. You might want to print it out and carry it with you.

Click here for: Report published in the Federal Register

Here’s the law:

Title 31 Subtitle B Chapter V Part 515 Subpart E Section 515.574
§ 515.574 Support for the Cuban People

(a) General license. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people are authorized, provided that:

(1) The activities are of:

(i) Recognized human rights organizations;

(ii) Independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; or

(iii) Individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba; and

(2) Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that:

(i) Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and

(ii) Result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.

(3) The traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.


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What does this mean in the real world? 

1. To my non-attorney eyes, the law permits individual American citizens to travel for the purpose of providing “Support for the Cuban People.”

Support for the Cuban people is defined as activities intended to “promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.”

2. The law prohibits and provides a list of entities you, as an American citizen, may not do business with.

Click here for the list of forbidden companies.

3. The law requires that you engage in activities in support of the Cuban people on a full time basis (practically speaking six hours a day, five out of seven days a week) and specifically forbids things like laying around on the beach drinking daiquiris (unless it’s your “time off.”)

Here are two credible sources that attempt to define what this vague language means in practical terms:

Source #1 – Cornell Law School

Source #2 – Viahero

4. The law requires that you keep records of your trip for five years in case some bureaucrat shows up at your door someday asking you why you went. Records would be a simple diary and receipts.

That’s it.

Based on my ability to read simple English – and to avoid being flimflammed – it appears to me that if I follow these guidelines I can travel to Cuba legally.

Does that mean that you or I can do this without hassles from U.S. government functionaries?

We may or may not avoid hassles coming back into our own country, but as you probably know there are U.S. government functionaries ready to hassle you about virtually everything – including coming home from countries like Canada, Mexico, the UK and Switzerland.

To defuse potential hassles coming back into the “Land of the Free” (the US):

1. Bring a copy of the law
2. Bring a copy of the forbidden entities to show you are aware of the law and to assure whoever that you avoided transactions with them
3. Bring a diary with receipts that records your daily activities

Listen to my audio. Read the resources I’ve linked to. Forewarned is forearmed.

If, after you’ve done your own research and thinking, you want to go to Cuba as an independent traveler, we can help.

Click there for details


Go to Cuba with Jazz on the Tube as your guide:
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