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Build Your Own ‘People to People’ Mission & More Cuba Changes

posted by Jennifer Diaz March 16, 2016 3 Comments

Plane, United States and Cuba flags

If you have been following our Cuba updates, you’ll note we’ve been busy. A full listing of all of our posts to get you caught up are all the way at the bottom. Also, check out our new blog design and let me know what you think!

Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

  • On December 17, 2014, President Obama made a historic announcement: “Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.”
  • By January 16, 2015, both the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended its Cuban Assets Control Regulations, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended the Export Administration Regulations with a “Support for the Cuban People” license exception. Both OFAC and BIS’s new rules were effective as of January 16, 2015.
  • OFAC and BIS issued additional new rules on June 15, 2015, September 21, 2015, January 27, 2016 and again today!

As far as travel goes, the NY Times posted their travel tips, but, here are MY travel tips to you:

  1. KEEP RECORDS (we DON’T know who the next President will be, or what their stance on Cuba is) for 5 Years. 
  2. Ensure you DO meet one of the 12 “Authorized Traveler” Categories. NO purely “touristic” visits. Consult OFAC’s FAQ’s, if still unsure, contact your lawyer to determine if you fit into one of these 12:
    • family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
  3. Make sure you have a travel agenda detailing your appointments (if they don’t fill up a “FULL DAY,” you’re not done drafting it, and maybe will need a travel sponsor for your people to people mission after all).
  4. If you’re participating in a ‘People to People’ mission, ask yourself (hint, at least one answer should be YES), does this agenda seek to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities?
  5. If you’re participating in a ‘People to People’ mission, check your agenda PRIOR to traveling; predominantly meeting with the government of Cuba or Cuban Communist Party Officials will NOT be an authorized trip.

A snapshot highlighting the new changes as of today, courtesy of the Department of Treasury’s Fact Sheet:

Travel and Related Transactions–

  • People-to-people educational travel. Individuals will be authorized to travel to Cuba for individual people-to-people educational travel, provided that the traveler engages in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities and that will result in a meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba. (Editor Note: YES, this does mean soon you will be able to BOOK your own flight, and PLAN your OWN trip to Cuba). Previously, the general license authorizing educational travel required such trips to take place under the auspices of an organization that was subject to U.S. jurisdiction and required all travelers to be accompanied by a representative of the sponsoring organization. This change is intended to make authorized educational travel to Cuba more accessible and less expensive for U.S. citizens, and will increase opportunities for direct engagement between Cubans and Americans. Persons relying upon this authorization must retain records related to the authorized travel transactions, including records demonstrating a full-time schedule of authorized activities. In the case of an individual traveling under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, the individual may rely on the entity sponsoring the travel to satisfy those recordkeeping requirements. The statutory prohibition on travel for tourist activities remains in place.
  • Payment of salaries. Cuban nationals in the United States in a non-immigrant status or pursuant to other non-immigrant travel authorization will be authorized to earn a salary or compensation, consistent with the terms of the particular visa, provided that the recipient is not subject to any special tax assessments in Cuba. U.S. companies will be authorized to engage in transactions related to the sponsorship or hiring of Cuban nationals to work or perform in the United States similar to nationals from other countries, provided that no additional payments are made to the Cuban government in connection with such sponsorship or hiring. For example, Cuban athletes, artists, performers, and others who obtain the requisite visas will be able to travel to the United States and earn salaries and stipends in excess of basic living expenses. Transactions in connection with the filing of an application for non-immigrant travel authorizations will also be authorized.
  • Cuban-origin merchandise. OFAC will authorize certain dealings in Cuban-origin merchandise by individuals for personal consumption while in a third-country, and to receive or obtain services from Cuba or a Cuban national that are ordinarily incident to travel and maintenance within a third country. This authorization will allow, for example, Americans traveling in Europe to purchase and consume Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products while abroad similar to the travel exemptions in other sanctions programs.

Banking and financial services –

  • U-turn payments through the U.S. financial system. U.S. banking institutions will be authorized to process U-turn transactions in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest. This provision will authorize funds transfers from a bank outside the United States that pass through one or more U.S. financial institutions before being transferred to a bank outside the United States, where neither the originator nor the beneficiary is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
  • Processing of U.S. dollar monetary instruments. U.S. banking institutions will be authorized to process U.S. dollar monetary instruments, including cash and travelers’ checks, presented indirectly by Cuban financial institutions. Correspondent accounts at third-country financial institutions used for such transactions may be denominated in U.S. dollars.
  • S. bank accounts for Cuban nationals. U.S. banking institutions will be authorized to open and maintain bank accounts in the United States for Cuban nationals in Cuba to receive payments in the United States for authorized or exempt transactions and to remit such payments back to Cuba.

Trade and commerce –

  • Physical and business presence. OFAC will expand the existing authorization for “physical presence” (such as an office, retail outlet, or warehouse) to include entities that engage in authorized humanitarian projects, entities that engage in authorized noncommercial activities intended to provide support for the Cuban people, and private foundations or research or educational institutes engaging in certain authorized activities pursuant to sections 515.575, 515.574, and 515.576 of the CACR, respectively. OFAC will also expand the existing authorization for “business presence” (such as a joint venture) to include exporters of goods that are authorized for export or re-export to Cuba or that are exempt, entities providing mail or parcel transmission services or cargo transportation services, (Editor Note: Calling all freight forwarders) and providers of carrier and travel services to facilitate authorized transactions. The revised regulations will also clarify that the physical and business presence authorizations permit exporters and re-exporters of authorized or exempt goods to assemble such goods in Cuba. BIS will make conforming changes to the EAR to generally authorize exports and re-exports of eligible items to establish and maintain a physical or business presence that is authorized by OFAC.
  • Importation of software. The CACR currently authorizes the importation of Cuban origin mobile applications. OFAC will expand this authorization to allow the importation of Cuban-origin software.
  • BIS will generally authorize vessels to transport authorized cargo from the United States to Cuba and then sail to other countries with any remaining cargo that was onloaded in the United States. · Cuban private sector. BIS will adopt a licensing policy of case-by-case review for exports and re-exports of items that would enable or facilitate exports from Cuba of items produced by the Cuban private sector.

Grants and awards –

  • OFAC will authorize the provision of educational grants and awards, and clarify that an existing authorization applies to the provision of grants and awards for the humanitarian projects authorized in OFAC’s regulations. This step will further enable U.S. support for educational projects in Cuba and U.S. participation in philanthropic efforts.

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3 Comments

First Commercial flight to Cuba Scheduled to Depart August 31, 2016! | Customs & International Trade Law Blog August 12, 2016 at 7:59 pm

[…] the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, but as we have discussed in various other articles, Congress has not lifted the trade embargo against Cuba, this means U.S. travelers are still […]

Reply
David Bjornson August 29, 2016 at 10:19 pm

These travel tips about Cuba are very useful. Although, I can’t believe that I can’t travel to Cuba if my intentions are purely “touristic.”

Reply
Jennifer Diaz August 29, 2016 at 10:36 pm

Believe it! Although we’re not seeing OFAC enforcement now, they have the ability to do so (and if/when they do, it will be PUBLIC)!

Reply

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