NOTE: On June 16, 2017, President Trump and the U.S. Treasury Department announced increased restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, including reversing the liberalization stated in the first bullet point below. However, new regulations have not yet been issued. The information below is accurate up to June 16, 2017.
On January 16, 2015 the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published regulations making Cuba travel much easier for Americans, and liberalized this further on March 15, 2016. Nearly everyone can now visit Cuba without applying for a license.
Categories of travel that do not require such a “specific license” are:
- Full-Time People-to-people educational exchanges in Cuba no longer need to be organized by a U.S organization that sponsors exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, but travelers are expected to keep supportive documentation for 5 years. [See 31 CFR 515.565]***
- Professional research or attending professional meetings in Cuba relating to the traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise. [See 31 CFR 515.564]
- Educational activities in Cuba for US university, college and secondary school faculty, staff and students. Faculty and staff can visit Cuba to research and prepare for student trips. [See 31 CFR 515.565]
- Religious activities in Cuba by any US person (full time) [Anyone, including atheists can travel under this category. If they attend/observe/participate in a full time schedule.] [See 31 CFR 515.566]
- Humanitarian activities in Cuba. [See 31 CFR 515.575]
- Participation in public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions, and athletic and other competitions. [See 31 CFR 515.567]
- Business visits for exportation and importation of informational materials, telecommunications and internet hardware and services; and exportation of agricultural products; as well as sales of tools, equipment and building materials outside the state sector. [See 31 CFR 515.545, 515.533, …]
- Any kind of support for the Cuban people (not defined) by recognized human rights organizations; orby individuals or NGOs for purposes such as to aid civil society, etc. [See 31 CFR 515.574]
- Visiting a relative or family member in Cuba. [See 31 CFR 515.561]
- Freelance & other Journalistic activities in Cuba. [See 31 CFR 515.563]
- Activities by private foundations or research or educational institutes with an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba [See 31 CFR 515.576]
- Official US government business, and visits to Cuba by foreign diplomatic staff residing in the US. [See 31 CFR 515.562]
If you fit into one of these categories you are automatically authorized to visit Cuba legally without having to apply for a specific license. You simply book Cuba travel after affirming your status and go to the island.