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Publication: Travel Restrictions to Cuba

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Know Before You Go - A Guide for Traveling to Cuba

CCR's Cuba Travel Report
Please note: This booklet summarizes Cuba travel restrictions and alerts Cuba travelers to some of the current legal requirements and potential legal consequences they face. It is not a complete discussion of the applicable laws and regulations. It does not cover all possible questions, concerns and contingencies. This booklet was last updated in September 2009. Since laws, regulations, and their interpretation often change, this information may be outdated by the time you read it. The Center for Constitutional Rights does not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this booklet as of any point in time.

Download the report with this link.

Note: In April 2009, President Obama issued a directive requiring the Department of Treasury to, among other things, loosen federal regulations restricting “family travel” to Cuba.  On September 3, 2009, these changes were finally implemented through a series of amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.  CCR’s Know Before You Go guide reflects these changes.  If you are interested in traveling to Cuba to visit family members or have questions regarding licensing or legality, call us at 212-614-6470.

Make sure to consult an attorney before planning any trip to Cuba. Do not rely on these materials without first seeking the advice of an attorney about your particular situation and facts. Only a licensed attorney, reviewing your individual facts, may render legal advice. This booklet is provided as a public resource for information purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be relied on in making any decisions concerning travel to Cuba or transactions with Cuban nationals. The Center for Constitutional Rights no longer accepts Cuba travel clients for direct representation, and nothing in this booklet should be taken to create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Center.

If you need help finding an individual attorney to render legal advice regarding your situation, please call the Center’s Cuba Travel Project at (212) 614-6470.

I. Introduction

The laws and regulations relating to Cuba travel are complex, and in many respects vague and not subject to settled interpretations. Over the years, enforcement of these laws has been inconsistent, indeed haphazard, affecting only a small portion of the many thousands of annual travelers to Cuba. Knowing and exercising your rights are powerful protections against potential penalties that travelers may face for violating the U.S. embargo that restricts travel to Cuba. It is especially important for non-citizens to consult with an immigration expert about the possible impact of a Cuba trip on their status in the U.S.

This information is geared toward Cuba travelers who wish to avoid confrontation with the government. We recognize, however, that some travelers knowingly choose to make no effort either to comply with the embargo, possibly as an act of civil disobedience, or to reduce their risk of becoming subject to government scrutiny. We at CCR respect that stance and are ready and willing to help you find counsel as well.

Additionally, the laws and regulations relating to Cuba travel change with the political winds, sometimes to become more restrictive, sometimes less. For example, in June 2004 the Bush administration sharply curtailed the availability of several types of licenses permitting travel to Cuba. These changes include limiting the rights of Cuban-Americans to visit family, removing the “fully-hosted travel” exemption, and restricting educational travel. In February 2009, the Obama administration announced its intention to reverse some of the 2004 restrictions, including those pertaining to family travel, but left other aspects of the travel ban unchanged. You can find more information on the current licensing regulations in Section III. Considering that the laws and regulations may continue to change, it is essential that you contact an attorney to review the regulations and the facts of your individual case prior to any trip.

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