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A Rundown of Obama's New Loosened Travel Restrictions to Cuba

By    |   Thursday, 03 Dec 2015 08:44 PM

The trade embargo on Cuba also came with a ban on travel to the island. There were no direct flights to and from Cuba with U.S. citizens forbidden by law to enter the country. When President Obama opened talks with Raul Castro in 2014, lifting the total travel ban on Cuba was one of the first items on the agenda. Cuba wanted the limited changes of 2011 extended to include all travel, while the U.S. wanted to see changes in attitude from Cuba in return.

Here is a rundown of Obama’s loosened travel restrictions.

While all previous travel to Cuba was banned, there were exceptions introduced in 2011 by Obama. These so-called people-to-people licenses covered the visit of family members, and those on an educational, cultural, or religious mission.

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The changes now allow the issuing of these licenses for people traveling on official U.S. government business, journalist activity, professional research, and those participating in a public performance such as a sporting meeting. The Office of Foreign Assets Control lists a full range of other specified activities as authorized by the U.S. government. The aim of the list of activities is to limit the nature of visits to the island and to enforce the still intact embargo on trade.

People who think they qualify under one or more of the listed activities need to apply to the OFAC for a license to travel before leaving the U.S. It is still illegal for a U.S. citizen to enter Cuba without a license, and penalties apply for those who break the rules. If a citizen qualifies for a license, they still need to book their plans through a licensed travel agency. A big change for many is that the authorized companies can now run charter flights from the U.S. directly to Cuba. The U.S. government has a list of approved agents and direct travel from the U.S. is only possible through them. It is illegal for a travel agency to offer Cuba travel from the U.S. without authorization from the government.

Even when on the island, U.S. citizens are restricted on what they may do and where they may go. These rules laid down by the OFAC, are in place to limit the spending of tourists on the island. The authorized agencies are expected to comply and enforce these rules when conducting tours. Tourists are expected to stay within their hotel compounds and are only allowed visit historical sites and museums on organized tours. Tourist recreations such as going to the beach, swimming in the Caribbean, or scuba diving are prohibited.

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The trade embargo on Cuba also came with a ban on travel to the island. When President Obama opened talks with Raul Castro in 2014, lifting the total travel ban on Cuba was one of the first items on the agenda.
Obama, Cuba, travel restrictions
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2015-44-03
Thursday, 03 Dec 2015 08:44 PM
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