Restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba have constituted a key and often contentious component in U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba’s communist government since the early 1960s. Such restrictions are largely part of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), the overall embargo regulations administered by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), as well as certain parts of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), administered by the Department of Commerce. Various Administrations have eased and tightened these restrictions over the years as U.S. policy toward Cuba has changed.
The Obama Administration eased restrictions on travel and remittances significantly. In 2009, the Administration lifted all restrictions on family travel and remittances. In 2011, the Administration eased restrictions on other types of travel, including travel related to religious, educational, and people-to-people exchanges, and allowed any U.S. person to send remittances to individuals in Cuba. As part of President Obama’s major shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba in December 2014, which moved the U.S. approach away from a sanctions-based policy toward one of engagement, the Administration took actions that considerably eased restrictions on nonfamily travel and remittances. In 2015 and 2016, OFAC amended the embargo regulations five times to implement the new policy. It initially authorized travel by general license for all 12 categories of travel set forth in the CACR, eliminated traveler per diem limits, increased the amount of nonfamily remittances, and permitted other types of remittances. OFAC subsequently removed dollar limits for donative remittances to Cuban nationals; authorized people-to-people educational travel for individuals; and removed value limits for the importation of Cuban products, including alcohol and tobacco products, by U.S. travelers as accompanied baggage for personal use. The Department of Commerce amended the EAR, issuing license exceptions authorizing temporary sojourn passenger vessels to Cuba, and cruise ship travel to Cuba from the United States began in 2016. The Administration also negotiated a bilateral arrangement to permit regularly scheduled air flights to Cuba that began in 2016.