14th October, 2016

The most frequently asked question by travelers to Cuba from the USA will now sit on a shelf; collecting dust next to the Atari game system and the Electromatic Typewriter, and most importantly, the Cuban Assets Control Regulations; et al, of 1963.   ” How many cigars can I bring back with me”?

Today’s much welcomed press release from the Office of Foreign Assets Control clarifies this all important question to the first time traveler to Cuba.  From the Office of Public Affairs:


Today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) are announcing new amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR), respectively. These amendments help create more economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans, further implementing the direction toward Cuba that the USA laid out in December 2014. The changes will take effect on October 17, 2016, when the regulations are published.


 Travel-related Transactions–Supporting People-to-People Contact by Facilitating Authorized Travel & Commerce

  • Importation of Cuban-origin merchandise origin merchandise for personal use

    • OFAC is removing the monetary value limitations on what authorized travelers may import from Cuba into the United States as accompanied baggage. This includes the value limitations on alcohol and tobacco products. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be further authorized to import Cuban-origin merchandise acquired in third countries into the United States as accompanied baggage, again without value limitations. OFAC is also removing the prohibition on foreign travelers importing Cuban-origin and alcohol tobacco products in the United States as
      accompanied baggage. In all cases, the Cuba origin goods must be for personal use, and normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply.
      To see the Treasury regulations, which can be found at 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 515, please see here.
      To see the Commerce regulations, which can be found at 15 CFR parts 730 – 774, please see here.


Highlights of the amendments further weaken the the prohibitions against: Joint medical research, importation of Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals, opening of bank accounts, grants, scholarships and rewards to Cuban scholars, providing services to Cuba or Cuban nationals related to developing, repairing, maintaining, and enhancing certain Cuban infrastructure in order to directly benefit the Cuban people, services Supporting International Aviation and Passenger Safety, Bolstering Trade and Commercial Opportunities and the Growth of Cuba’s Private Sector, exports of certain consumer goods that are sold online, Contingent contracts, agricultural items authorized by BIS for export or reexport to Cuba are not subject to restrictions on payment terms, and most importantly, waiving the restriction prohibiting foreign vessels from entering a U.S. port for purposes of loading or unloading freight for 180 days after calling on a Cuban port for trading purposes if the items the vessel carried to Cuba would, be designated as EAR99.

So, the short of it, in our opinion; which has been informed by over 40 years of direct contact with Cuba and the Cuban people, is that commercial and transportation restrictions have all been lifted. You are now free to conduct trade with Cuba and the Cuban people, according to the guidelines listed above. Touristic type of travel is still restricted, and will remain so, until an act of Congress abolishes the embargo completely. This should not dissuade the first time traveler to Cuba; as of today, you can enjoy the cornucopia of Cuba’s legendary trio – Rum, Tobacco, and Coffee – as much as your heart’s content. Viva Cuba!  Viva Cuba Tour!