On November 8, 2017, the Trump Administration released new Cuba sanctions that unfortunately create a more convoluted and confusing approach to U.S.-Cuba policy. While the administration did tighten controls over certain business transactions and alter categories of travel, most of President Obama’s policies of engagement remain intact.
We are hopeful that the confusion surrounding President Trump’s Cuba policy does not discourage Americans from traveling to Cuba. That’s why it’s incredibly important that you help us get the word out: 1) Americans can still travel to Cuba, and 2) Americans can still conduct business with most Cuban entities.
In order to parse through the changes, below we break down what has changed and what hasn’t. We think you will be surprised at what has NOT changed and that many avenues for travel to and trade with Cuba remain intact. A detailed analysis of the regulatory changes is available here.
What’s changed and what hasn’t:
1. Financial transactions.
The Trump Administration prohibited financial transactions between U.S. individuals and businesses and Cuban companies and entities that are controlled by or “disproportionately benefit” the Cuban military. The State Department has created a list of Cuban companies and entities that fall under this category. Americans are still allowed to conduct business with Cuban private companies and any entities that do not fall under the State Department’s prohibited list.
While most of the prohibitions on “direct transactions” are intended to halt commercial business deals, among the list of prohibited Cuban entities are a number of hotels. Unless traveling as a U.S. government official or under a journalist, humanitarian, or information authorization, Americans are prohibited from staying at these hotels.
The full list of entities on the Cuba Restricted List is available here.
*U.S. companies already engaged in business deals with these entities will not be affected.
There are still 12 categories under which Americans can travel to Cuba under a general license, meaning there is still no need for U.S. travelers to obtain a specific license from the U.S. government.
Of the 12 categories of legal travel, the administration touched the “individual people-to-people” section of the “educational” authorization. Americans who wish to travel under the “people-to-people” authorization must now be accompanied by a U.S. tour company, a rule that predated the Obama era.
Individual Americans may still travel Cuba under the remaining 11 categories, including the “support for the Cuban people” category, provided Americans engage in a full schedule of “meaningful interaction” with the Cuban people and/or with Cuba’s private sector.
*Travel that was at least partially booked prior to November 9, 2017 will not be affected.
3. Individual Cuban sanctions.
Lastly, the administration has expanded the definition of “prohibited officials” in Cuba, increasing the number of Cuban nationals whom Americans are banned from engaging in direct financial transactions with.
While this will not affect the average non-Cuban-American traveler, unfortunately, this adds to the list of individuals who are unable to receive remittances. I.e., more Cubans who happen to work for certain Cuban government ministries will be unable to receive remittances from their Cuban-American families.
What hasn't changed:
1. The U.S. maintains diplomatic ties with Cuba, and embassies in Havana and Washington remain open.
2. The administration has not reinstated the “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy.
3. The general licenses for all 12 categories of purposeful travel besides the individual people-to-people subcategory remain authorized.
4. U.S. business activities allowed under President Obama’s regulatory reforms may continue so long as they comply with new regulations regarding the Cuba Restricted List.
5. Cubans in the United States can still send uncapped remittances to Cubans who do not appear on the list of prohibited persons.
6. Cuba remains off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
7. The 23 bilateral agreements signed by the U.S. and Cuba under President Obama remain in effect.
We strongly condemn any actions intended to hamper relations between the U.S. and Cuba. At the same time, these regulatory changes are far from a total rollback of U.S.-Cuba policy. Importantly, it is still legal to travel to Cuba and to conduct business with Cuban entities not listed as restricted.