How America’s Relationship With Cuba Will Change

Alicia Parlapiano  |  The New York Times  |  December 17, 2014

President Obama on Wednesday announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and a series of actions aimed at easing travel and trade restrictions rooted in a 1963 law.

Diplomatic Relations

There have been no diplomatic relations with Cuba since the early 1960s, after Fidel Castro and his Communist government came to power.

  • Relations will be re-established, with an American embassy in Havana.

State-Sponsored Terror List

In 1982, Cuba was designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

  • Secretary of State John Kerry will review the designation.

Travel Restrictions

Citizens and permanent residents of the United States are not permitted to travel to Cuba, with some exceptions. General licenses, which require no special permission, are authorized for:

  • Persons visiting a “close relative” who is a Cuban national and “persons traveling with them who share a common dwelling as a family with them.”
    • Obama authorized this in 2009.
  • Government business.
  • Journalists regularly employed at a news organization.
  • Certain researchers and professionals.
  • Certain college faculty and students or others participating in educational activities.
  • Certain religious activities.
  • Telecommunications providers.
    • Obama authorized telecommunications providers to pursue licensing agreements in 2009.
  • Producers or distributors of agricultural or medical goods.
  • Other specific licenses to travel are granted on a case-by-case basis.
  • Obama will open up general licenses to travel for these reasons, which previously required approval on a case-by-case basis:
    • Public performances, workshops and athletic competitions.
    • Support for the Cuban people, including human rights work.
    • Humanitarian work.
    • Private foundations and institutes.
    • Information dissemination.
    • Travel related to export of authorized products.
  • Lifting all restrictions on travel, including for tourism, would require congressional action.

Banking and Trade Embargo

No transactions involving the property of a Cuban national (including purchasing Cuban cigars in third countries or signing a Cuba-related contract with a foreign firm).

  • United States institutions will be able to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions.
  • Travelers to Cuba will be allowed to use American credit and debit cards.
  • United States entities in third countries will be allowed to engage in transactions and meetings with Cuban individuals in third countries.

No imports or exports (with certain exceptions like humanitarian gifts).

  • Certain items that support the Cuban private sector will be allowed for export, including certain building materials and agricultural equipment.
  • Certain items that support telecommunications in Cuba will be allowed for export, and companies will be allowed to establish related infrastructure.
  • Licensed American travelers will be able to import $400 worth of goods (including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol).
  • Congress would need to act to lift the embargo entirely.

Transfer of Money

  • Authorized travelers are now permitted to carry $3,000 in remittances to Cuba. There are no limits on remittances to religious organizations.
  • No limits on sending remittances to close relatives.
    • Obama authorized this in 2009.
  • Remittances of up to $500 per quarter may be made to any Cuban national for humanitarian needs.
    • That limit will be raised to $2,000 a quarter.
  • License requirements for people who provide remittance forwarding services (other than depository institutions).
    • Licenses will no longer be required.

Sources: Department of Treasury, White House, Congressional Research Service

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