Legal News You Can Use

Saving Tour Operators Money, Issue Seven

Trading With The Enemy: Ending Prejudice, Bigotry, And Narrow-Mindedness. A Post About Travel To Cuba.

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights;

it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

– Miriam Beard

Many believe that U.S. citizens are not permitted to travel to Cuba from the United States. This belief is based on two common misconceptions: (1) that the Cuban government prohibits such tourism; and/or (2) it is the act of travel from one country (the U.S.) to the other (Cuba) that is prohibited by the law. As a result, U.S. travelers to Cuba often go with some fear of the Cuban government simply because they will be in that country, while other U.S. travelers often believe that they might permissibly travel to Cuba from Canada, Mexico, or some other non-U.S. launching point. These beliefs are incorrect because the prohibition stems neither from the act of travel nor from a Cuban law but from U.S. sanctions against Cuba that prohibit U.S. citizens, residents, and companies from engaging in financial transactions with designated enemy countries, including Cuba.

Technically, all financial transactions with Cuba or Cubans are prohibited.[1] These legal prohibitions are based in the Trading With The Enemy Act (TWEA), the Trade Sanctions Reform & Export Enhancement Act of 2000, and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. (22 USC 7201-7209; 31 C.F.R. 515 et seq.) These Acts and Regulations govern the sanctions imposed against trade with Cuba and regulate transactions and licensing that are exceptions to the prohibitions.

Notably, transactions incidental to travel to Cuba have been afforded an exception to this prohibition in specified circumstances through the mechanisms of general and specific licenses granted by the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control. (31 CFR 515.201.) Travelers from the U.S. who go to Cuba, regardless of the point of departure, without a license face civil penalties of up to $65,000 and criminal penalties that range up to 10 years in prison, $1,000,000 in corporate fines, and $250,000 in individual fines. (31 CFR 501.701(a)(3); 50 USC App. 16(b).)

To learn more about the exception of travel to the U.S. sanctions against Cuba, licenses that permit operating tours to Cuba, and the perspective of Alice Kupcik of Salsa Retreat about U.S. travel to Cuba, visit my blog at I also welcome your comments and suggested topics at that site.

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Please be aware that the information in this tip sheet is not a substitute for legal advice, which can only be given after considering the specifics of your company and its business practices. We make no representation that this information will protect any legal rights or obligations or provide actual money saving results. Every company and circumstance are different. In order to protect your legal rights and obligations and accurately apply the information provided here to your company, you should consult with an attorney. For legal counsel you may wish to contact Mona McPhee at Desh International Law.


© Mona K. McPhee and Desh International Law 2014. All text content and photo of Mona McPhee is protected by copyright with all rights reserved.