Can I travel to Cuba? Additional Information for U.S. Citizens

When we began selling airline tickets to Cuba in February, we immediately started getting a lot of questions regarding eligibility to travel to Cuba and the 12 official reasons a U.S. citizen can make the trip. We can now offer a bit more insight into the categories permitted.

Florida and Cuba map If you think you might be eligible to travel under one of the reasons, here are some guidelines to help you better understand the nuances of the allowed categories: The permitted reasons to travel to Cuba (as defined by the U.S. Government) are:

1. Family visits

a. I am traveling to visit a close relative in Cuba, who is (i) a Cuban national, (ii) related to me by blood, marriage, or adoption and (iii) is no more than three generations from me or from a common ancestor, or b. I share a common dwelling as a family with a generally licensed family traveler authorized under above, and I am accompanying the licensed traveler on a family visit. c. I am visiting a close relative, who is a U.S. Government employee assigned to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, or d. I share a common dwelling as a family with a generally licensed family traveler in 6(a) above, and I am accompanying the licensed traveler on a family visit. e. I am a person located in Cuba pursuant to full-time educational activities pursuant to CFR 515.565 (a) (1) through (4) provided the authorized traveler will be in Cuba for more than 60 days.

2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

I am an employee, contractor or grantee of the United States government or any foreign government or a representative of an international organization of which the United States is a member, and I am traveling on official business of my government or intergovernmental organization.

3. Journalistic activity

I am traveling to Cuba directly to engage in journalistic activities in Cuba. I am regularly employed as a journalist by a news reporting organization, or I am regularly employed as supporting broadcast or as a technical person or a freelance journalist with a record of previous journalistic experience working on a freelance journalistic project or broadcast or technical personnel with a record of previous broadcast or technical experience and whose schedule of activities in Cuba does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.

4. Professional research and professional meetings

I am a full-time professional whose travel transactions are directly related to my profession, professional background, or area of expertise, including area of graduate – level full-time study. My research in my full-time professional area will comprise a full work schedule in Cuba and I will not engage in recreational travel, tourist travel, travel in pursuit of a hobby, or research for personal satisfaction only.I am a full-time professional whose travel transactions are directly related to attending a professional meeting or conference in Cuba, which directly relates to my profession, professional background or area of expertise, including area of graduate level full- time study; for which the purpose of the meeting or conference is not to promote tourism in Cuba and whose schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule of attendance at professional meetings or conferences.

5. Educational activities

General license for educational activities
I am a faculty member, staff person, or student of an academic institution (the “University”), and my travel is incident to (1) participation in a structured educational program in Cuba as part of a course offered for credit by the undergraduate or graduate degree granting academic institution that is sponsoring the program, (2) non-commercial academic research in Cuba specifically related to Cuba and for the purpose of obtaining a graduate degree, (3) participation in a formal course of study at a Cuban academic institution, which will be accepted for credit toward a graduate or undergraduate degree, (4) teaching at a Cuban academic institution by a person, who is regularly employed in a teaching capacity at the University, (5) organization of, and preparation for, educational activities authorized in the Regulations, (6) educational exchanges sponsored by Cuban or U.S secondary schools involving secondary school students participation in formal course of study or in a structured educational program offered by a secondary school or other academic institution and led by a teacher or other secondary school official, (7) Sponsorship or co-sponsorship of noncommercial academic seminars, conferences, and workshops related to Cuba or global issues involving Cuba and attendance at such events by faculty, staff and students of a participating U.S. academic institution.
General license for people-to-people travel.
I am traveling to Cuba directly incident to educational exchange not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program and my travel (1) takes place under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to the U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to Cuba to promote people-to-people contact; (2) the travel is for the purpose of engaging while in Cuba in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support for civil society, or promote the Cuba people’s independence from the Cuban authorities; (3) Each traveler will have a full-time schedule of educational activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba (4) an employee, paid consultant or agent of the sponsoring organization is accompanying the group travel to ensure that each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities, and (5) the predominant portion of the activities to be engaged in will not be with individuals or entities acting for or on behalf of a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.

6. Religious activities

I am a person subject to the U.S. jurisdiction, including religious organizations located in the U.S. and members and staff of such organizations, traveling to Cuba directly incident to engaging in a schedule of full-time religious activities in Cuba.

7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

General license for amateur/semi-professional international sports federation competitions
I am a person whose travel to Cuba is directly incident to athletic competition by amateur or semi-professional athletics or athletics teams traveling to participate in athletic competition in Cuba provided that (1) the competition is held under the auspices of the international sports federation for the relevant sport;(2) the U.S. participants are selected by the U.S. federation for the relevant sport; (3) the competition is open to the public.
General license for public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic completion or non-athletic competitions and exhibitions
I am a person whose travel to Cuba is directly incident to participation in a public performance, clinic, workshop, non athletic competition or other athletic competition not covered by (a) above provided that: (1) the event is open to for attendance and in relevant situations participation by the Cuban public;(2) all U.S. profits from the event after the costs are donated to an independent nongovernmental organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity, with the objective of promoting people–to-people contacts or otherwise benefiting the Cuban people; and (3) any clinics or workshops in Cuba must be organized and run, at least in part, by the authorized traveler.

8. Support for the Cuban people

I am a person whose travel to Cuba is directly incident to promoting independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba, and the schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.

9. Humanitarian projects

I am a person whose travel to Cuba is directly related to the humanitarian projects in or relation to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people.

10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes

I am a person whose travel to Cuba is directly incident to activities by private foundations or research or educational institutions with an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba for non-commercial purposes.

11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials

I am a person whose travel to Cuba is directly related to the exportation or re- exportation, directly or indirectly, from the United States or for services incident to the exchange of communications over the Internet, provided that it is not for promotion of tourism and domain name registration services. I am a person whose travel to Cuba is directly incident to exportation, importation, or informational materials provided that the schedule of activities does not included free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.

12. Certain authorized export transactions

I am a person whose travel is directly incident to the conduct of market research, commercial marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing in Cuba of items consistent with the export or re-export licensing policy of the Department or Commerce (DOC) provided that the schedule of activities does not included free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.

If you meet the criteria and you’re ready to fly to Cuba, just search flights to Havana right here on CheapAir.com. For answers to many other common questions about flying to Cuba, please see our Cuba Travel FAQs. We hope this information provides you with enough detail to help with trip planning. Should you have other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

29 Comments

    1. Hi Shalonte, It depends on the relatives you have in Cuba. If you have a close relative there, you don’t have to provide any documentation. A “close relative” is any individual related to a person by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person. For example, your father’s first cousin is your close relative, because you are both no more than three generations removed from your great-grandparents, who are the ancestors you have in common.

      1. What if I am looking for my grandfathers sister who lives there? We know where she lives but don’t know if she is still alive.

  1. Can I fly directly to Cuba from the US as non-US resident? I am visiting New York for about a week, want to visit Cuba for a week and then return to my home outside the US from Havana. Based on the relationship between my home country and Cuba, I will also not require a visum for Cuba.

    1. Hi Emilio, If your plans to travel to Cuba fall strictly in the “leisure” category, it’s true. Americans, and foreign nationals living in the U.S. on either a student or work visa must comply with the 12 categories. Since U.S. air carriers started selling direct flights (just a few months ago). they have also implemented the rule that anyone flying on one of their flights must comply (whether or not you’re just “passing through” as it were).Having said that, a “people to people” exchange might still qualify you. https://www.cheapair.com/blog/travel-tips/how-to-travel-to-cuba-without-a-tour-group-in-8-easy-steps/

  2. Hello, if my reason for travel falls in one of these categories, do I have to fill out an application or a form to get the proper clearance to go? Where would those documents be? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jon, No. These “licenses” are on the honor system. Depending on your reason for travel, you may have to provide supporting documentation upon re-entry to the United States (receipts showing you visited museums and other cultural attractions, etc.)

  3. I am a Dutch citizen and want to travel to Cuba from the USA.
    I have to comply with the 12 categories as well right?
    Can i just say that my trip will involve people-to-people activities, without showing any proof?
    Or do I really need to show a schedule of all activities i am planning to do with locals to prove that i will engage in ‘ people to-people activities?

    1. Hi Mikail, You do need to comply with the 12 categories. You may want to read through this post which gives some tips on how to not run afoul of U.S. immigration on your return to the U.S.: https://www.cheapair.com/blog/travel-tips/how-to-travel-to-cuba-without-a-tour-group-in-8-easy-steps/. We do recommend having a printed itinerary on your return, though it’s completely up to the immigration agents whether they ask for such an accounting. We’ve had lots of American travelers go to Cuba in the past two years, and we’ve heard of no one having any trouble whatsoever.

  4. I’m a U.S. citizen and I’m traveling to Cuba from the U.S. I plan on using educational person to person. How would I plan a person to person visit. Also would I need to book my activities in advance in order to have a print out. Or would receipts of my activities be enough.

  5. If I go under people-to-people and stay in a casa particular and go to a museum each day, does that constitute a general license. Realistically can I buy/consume cigars and alcohol at all during this trip?

  6. We are a group of 6 interested in traveling to Havana with intention of learning about music, history and culinary culture of Cuba. I understand that the educational people to people is no longer available option under the 12 OFAC categories. Would we still fall under the educational category?

  7. Hi, my husband and I are Mexicans living in US. My husband holds a TN visa (work visa for Mexicans and Canadians) and I hold a TD visa (husband’s dependent). My son 22 months old and is American and doesn’t have a Mexican nationality yet. We plan to travel to Cuba for 2 weeks on December to meet my husband’s family (parents, sister and her husband), all Mexicans and living in Mexico.
    Under what categories can we travel to Cuba?
    We are happy to make an educational and/or people to people trip.

  8. Hello! Thank you for this article.
    I booked a roundtrip flight for my partner and I prior to the date when changes were announced. However, I’ve stalled on booking accommodations. Will this affect our ability to go? Thank you!

    1. Hi Sasha,

      Since you’ve already booked your flights prior, you’ll be fine. It only applies to new reservations that were made after.

  9. I am looking to travel to Cuba in September. I will use the reason to support the people. What proof will I need and what would my schedule consist of?

  10. Hello, I am traveling with a group of 8 (DIY) under “Support the Cuban People” We have an itinerary and plan on saving our receipts for re-entry.

    My question and concern is are we still required to purchase a Visa? I called my airline and they assured me I did not but I want to be sure.

    1. Hi Krystal, your group travel designation probably covers the cost of the tourist card (visa). These days, the airlines typically bundle the cost for this into your airline ticket and then the paperwork is completed when you pick up your paper tickets on departure day.

  11. Hello! Thanks for the article!
    My boyfriend and I will be in Miami in September and we then need to go to Cuba for a conference where he’s going to be a speaker and I will attend (we are both researcher).
    The organisers have already sent us an invitation letter where they invite him and me as accompanying guest.
    Will we have problem to get the visa and the flight for Cuba? Can we select “Professional research and professional meetings”? Is the invitation letter a sufficient proof?
    Many thanks!
    Valentina

  12. I would like to go to Cuba under the reason: Support for the Cuban people. How do I put together information or an itinerary to support this. Also, I am a nurse should I upload a resume’?

    1. Hi Karen, As of June 17, 2017, the U.S. has limited the people-to-people option. Read about the change here: https://www.cheapair.com/blog/destinations/travel-to-cuba-before-its-too-late/. The good news for you is that you may be able to qualify under one or more of the licenses. At this time, this licensure relies on the honor system. You may be asked upon re-entry to show documentation or have a discussion validating the license you chose, but we haven’t actually heard of anyone being detained or questioned to date.

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