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How Did Americans Get to Cuba Before Obama Loosened Travel Restrictions?

By    |   Wednesday, 09 Mar 2016 11:19 AM

Before President Obama loosened restrictions on Cuba, travel to the island by U.S. citizens was severely restricted. All direct flights from the U.S. mainland to Cuba were banned and ferry services were also placed on the list of unauthorized travel.

With the changes to U.S.-Cuba relations, parts of the travel ban were lifted and Americans may now travel to the country if they can show a cultural reason and interact directly with Cuban citizens only.

Prior to the changes, travel to Cuba was a different proposition for U.S. citizens. Ways that Americans used to get to Cuba before Obama’s changes were varied.

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A popular way for Americans to get into Cuba prior to the lifting of the travel ban was by taking a flight from a third country. Flights from Canada and other Caribbean states could legally land in Cuba and Americans wishing to visit would fly there first. This added an extra cost to travel plans that could be prohibitive for some. According to the Caribbean travel expert Robert Curley on About.com, tourist cards bought at offices in the foreign airports, allow an American entry to Cuba. An important aspect of this route was that Cuban customs officials didn’t stamp the passports of U.S. citizens, thus implicating them in breaking the travel ban.

Before Obama loosened travel restrictions, a system of people-to-people licenses was introduced. These permits came with heavy paperwork and applicants had to justify the reasons for wanting to visit Cuba under strict guidelines. The system allowed for people to take family visits for the first time but also opened travel to Cuba for other reasons. According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, some of the accepted travel purposes included: official U.S. government business, religious reasons, educational activities, and a host of other non-commercial activities.

For those not willing to fly to Cuba, taking a boat was an option. Cuba is only 90 miles from Florida so the opportunity to flout the rules was attempted by some people. A safer route was by cruise and many operators ran trips in the Caribbean that pulled into ports in Cuba. These cruises could not be run by an American company and U.S. citizens would have to ensure that authorities didn’t know what tour they were planning to take when leaving the United States. A 2013 article in The Huffington Post reported that public representatives, such as Marco Rubio, were against these tours, as they saw them as circumventing the spirit of people-to-people visits and the U.S. Embargo on trade with Cuba.

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Before President Obama loosened restrictions on Cuba, travel to the island by U.S. citizens was severely restricted. All direct flights from the U.S. mainland to Cuba were banned and ferry services were also placed on the list of unauthorized travel.
Cuba, Obama, travel restrictions
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2016-19-09
Wednesday, 09 Mar 2016 11:19 AM
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