On April 18, 2013, the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") announced its effort to streamline license processing procedures by accepting requests for licenses, license amendments, and interpretive guidance electronically. This will not only simplify the process for those that wish to travel to Cuba, this new electronic application program can also be used for applications to request the release of blocked funds and much more.
For those that are more "old school" – you still have the opportunity to submit applications by snail mail pursuant to 31 C.F.R. § 501.801.
The new electronic OFAC License Application Page will allow users to apply:
- to travel to Cuba (for many, though not all, categories of travel to Cuba);
- to export agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Sudan or Iran pursuant to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000;
- for the release of a wire transfer blocked at a U.S. financial institution; and
- for a license or interpretive guidance in all other circumstances (referred to generally as Transactional).
For those wishing to travel to Cuba in a jiffy, you must first consult an expert to review and assure you understand the Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba. Once you know that you can apply to OFAC for your specific category of travel – the next step is reviewing the online application page.
Thus far, the electronic form may be used to apply for licenses to travel to Cuba in the following categories of travel, which are not generally authorized pursuant to 31 C.F.R. 515:
- Journalistic Activities
- Professional Research and Professional Meetings
- Religious Activities
- Support for the Cuban People
- Humanitarian Projects Activities of Private Foundations
- Research or Educational Institutes Exportation
- Transmission of Information or Informational Materials
- Licensed Exportations
The OFAC has stated that they intend to update the online application system in the future so that all the categories of travel (including family visits, educational activities, public performances, clinics, workshops, competitions, and exhibitions) may be applied for using this streamlined online process.
If you want to travel to Cuba, want to export agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Sudan or Iran, have funds blocked by OFAC, or want interpretive guidance from OFAC, assure you consult a regulatory expert so you have the best chance for success with OFAC.