Remittances play an important role in Cuba’s state-controlled economy, with a significant portion (an estimated $2 billion annually) coming primarily from family members in the United States.
In January 2015, the United States announced regulatory changes that, among other things, increase purposeful travel to Cuba; raise remittance levels from $500 to $2000 per quarter for general donative remittances to Cuban nationals; allow donative remittances without a specific license for humanitarian projects and support for the Cuban people and development of private business in Cuba; authorize expanded commercial sales and exports from the United States of certain goods and services, including items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems; authorize American citizens to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined; permit U.S. institutions to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions; permit the use of U.S. credit and debit cards by travelers to Cuba.
Although economic sanctions remain in place, the United States was Cuba’s primary supplier of food and agricultural products, and humanitarian goods, a significant supplier of medicines and medical products, and Cuba’s seventh overall largest trading partner in goods, as of 2012.
U.S. federal regulations restrict travel to Cuba to licensed travelers engaged in certain specified activities. In January 2015, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued general licenses in the 12 categories of travel authorized by law, meaning that those travelers who qualify under these licenses do not need to wait for U.S. government approval in order to travel. If one’s travel does not qualify for a general license, individuals would need to apply for a specific license. Further information on the licensing process can be obtained OFAC or at its website.
Those contemplating travel to Cuba should consult the consular information page about the country. Following the resumption of the U.S. – Cuba Migration Talks to discuss implementation of the 1994-95 Migration Accords, in July 2013 the State Department announced the extension of the duration of certain non-immigrant visas for qualified Cuban travelers from six months (single entry) to five years (multiple entry).
Other transactions by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest are also prohibited unless licensed by OFAC. For more information on transactions, please consult OFAC’s website.
All exports to Cuba must be authorized by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). Further information on exports to Cuba can be found at the BIS website. Imports from Cuba and other Cuban-origin goods (e.g., merchandise purchased or otherwise acquired in Cuba or of Cuban origin acquired in a third country) are prohibited, although importation of Cuban-origin information and informational materials (for example, publications, films, posters, photographs, tapes, compact discs, and certain artwork) are exempt from the prohibition. Moreover, certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs are eligible for importation into the United States – for more information, see the State Department’s Section 515.582 List. Further information on imports to Cuba can be found at the OFAC website.