Making Sense of Trump’s Latest Announcement on Cuba Travel
President Trump last week (June 16, 2017) announced that he would roll back much of the Obama administration’s progress with Cuba travel, saying “Effective immediately, I’m canceling completely the one-sided deal with Cuba.”
But what, exactly, does that mean?
Here’s what it doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean the U.S. is back to a completely frigid relationship with Cuba. It doesn’t mean all channels of travel between the U.S. and Cuba will be shut down. It doesn’t mean that you, as an individual, can’t still visit Cuba if you’re so inclined. You certainly can!
What it does mean, is: You can no longer travel to Cuba on your own, individually, for people-to-people tourism. You must go with a group (like Discover Corps). It also means the U.S. government will not be facilitating the Cuban military receiving U.S. funds in any way.
Read more to dive deeper into the details of the President’s most recent Cuba travel announcement. Then, prepare to travel!
INDIVIDUAL VS GROUP PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE CUBA TRAVEL
One of the most notable announced rollbacks was that of individual people-to-people Cuba travel. However, group people-to-people travel will still be authorized. Sounds a little strange, but let’s look at the basics. “Group people-to-people travel” is considered educational travel that does not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program. However, it it does “take place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact.”
Basically, you have to be traveling with a government approved group or organization. Additionally, travelers must maintain a full (i.e. ‘full time’) schedule of “educational exchange activities.” These activities are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, according to the Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). As an approved organization, Discover Corps ensures that your program complies with these regulations, and also maintains records on your behalf in the event of an inquiry by OFAC.
If it falls in the categories below, it’s considered individual people-to-people travel and will no longer be authorized:
- Educational travel that:
- Does not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program; and
- Does not take place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact.
Essentially, gone are the (short lived) days when you could travel to Cuba own your own, marking the appropriate cultural or educational box at the airport (Volunteering? Listening to music?), and being on your way.
NOTE: Travelers subject to U.S. jurisdiction will still be able to participate in authorized travel to Cuba by cruise ship or passenger vessel.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR GROUP TRIPS & TOURS?
Here is where we get into the good news. This recent announcement does not have a negative impact on group trips and tours such as ours. We, and various other organizations, fall into the aforementioned category of “an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact.”
Discover Corps experiences are constructed with the same goals in mind as this policy aims to outline – preserving and focusing on culture, helping local communities, enhancing goodwill between nations, and fostering relationships for generations to come.
WHEN DO THE ANNOUNCED CHANGES TAKE EFFECT?
When the president makes an announcement, people oftentimes think changes take place immediately. This usually isn’t true. In this particular case, changes don’t take effect until the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issues new regulations.
If you were in the process of planning an individual person-to-person travel trip when the announcement was made, don’t worry! All’s not lost. According to the OFAC, provided you had already completed one travel-related transaction (purchasing a flight, reserving accommodations) prior to the June 16 announcement, “all additional travel-related transactions for that trip, whether the trip occurs before or after OFAC’s new regulations are issued, would also be authorized, provided the travel-related transactions are consistent with OFAC’s regulations as of June 16, 2017.”
Additionally, the announced policy changes do not in any way impact how you may purchase your airline tickets when traveling to Cuba (pursuant to the 12 categories of authorized travel).
TRUMP’S CUBA TRAVEL ANNOUNCEMENT IN A NUTSHELL
In simple summary, President Trump’s recent Cuba travel announcement amounts to these things:
- Once changes take effect, travelers will no longer be able to engage in individual people-to-people travel.
- Once changes take effect, travelers will be able to engage in group people-to-people travel.
- You can still purchase airline tickets for travel to Cuba (for travel pursuant to the 12 authorized categories of travel) in the same ways in the same ways you had before.
- You may still send authorized remittances to Cuba.
- People subject to U.S. jurisdiction will still be able to engage in authorized travel to Cuba via cruise ship or passenger vessel.
For additional information:
Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC): Frequently Asked Questions on President Trump’s Cuba Announcement
The White House: Fact Sheet on Cuba Policy
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