• What the New Cuba Rules Mean for Travelers and Businesses
  • February 10, 2015
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Today, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published new rules authorizing certain transactions with Cuba and Cuban nationals. Though the rules broaden the types of transactions that can be undertaken with Cuba, they do not permit wholesale travel and trade.

    Permitted Travel Activities

    As expected, OFAC regulations will permit a broader range of travel and related activities to take place under a "general license." Though tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited, visits for the following types of activities are among those that can take place without formal agency approval: family visits; professional research and professional meetings; educational, religious or journalistic activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation or transmission of information or information materials; certain export transactions; and official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations.

    Individuals engaged in permissible travel are now authorized to use U.S. credit and debit cards in Cuba.

    New Rules for Business Transactions with Cuba

    U.S.-owned or controlled entities in a third country are now authorized to provide goods and services to a Cuban national who is located outside of Cuba, provided that the transaction does not involve a commercial exportation, directly or indirectly, of goods or services to or from Cuba. A BIS export license may still be required, however, if the transaction involves the release of controlled technology to a Cuban national.

    The BIS Export Administration Regulations (EAR) now authorize certain transactions related to communications to take place without the need for a license. This includes commercial sales and donations of the export and re-export of consumer communications devices (personal computers, mobile phones, televisions, memory devices, recording devices, and consumer software) and exports of items for the establishment and upgrade of communications-related systems and infrastructure.

    The EAR also permits the export and re-export to Cuba of items to support private economic activity, including building materials, goods for use by private sector entrepreneurs such as auto mechanics, barbers and hairstylists and restaurateurs, and tools and equipment for private sector agricultural activity.

    What This Means for Organizations and Individuals

    The new regulations are the latest step toward fully normalized relations with Cuba, but many restrictions on travel and trade remain. Because violation of these rules can have significant consequences for organizations and individuals - including immigration consequences for non-citizens - any proposed activities with Cuba must be carefully evaluated in advance.