U.S. Eliminates People-to-People Travel to Cuba

by Daniel McCarthy
U.S. Eliminates People-to-People Travel to Cuba

OFAC said it would restrict almost all non-family travel to Cuba, including ending people-to-people travel. Photo: Shutterstock


The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today unveiled new amendments that will all but cripple American travel to Cuba.

In a release sent out on Tuesday, OFAC said it would restrict almost all non-family travel to Cuba, including ending people-to-people travel to Cuba that had been in place before travel to the country began to loosen in 2014 and had flourished since.

OFAC is including a grandfathering provision in the rules, which will allow certain people-to-people travel groups to continue as long as the traveler had completed one travel-related transaction—purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation—before June 5.

The new rules also include the ending of private and corporate aircraft and boats travel to Cuba.

OFAC said it is eliminating the provisions for political purposes, including keeping “U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services,” according to a statement released from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The news follows a vague April announcement made by National Security Advisor John Bolton that said the U.S. would look to restrict both cruise and air travel to the country, and limit the amount of money to $1,000 that Americans can send to friends or family still living in Cuba.

Family visits to Cuba reportedly remain unchanged.

People-to-people was one of the 12 authorized categories of travel for Americans wanting to go to Cuba. It allowed Americans to travel to Cuba for educational activities and cultural exchanges. It was originally instituted by President Bill Clinton in 1999 as a way to carve out some exceptions to the embargo to allow Americans to travel to Cuba “to engage in certain educational exchanges in Cuba under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact,” according to the website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

People-to-People travel was cut off by former President Bush in 2003 and then reopened by former President Obama in 2011, setting off a new rush to Cuba. Furthermore, in December 2014, when Obama announced a re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, he also loosened the restrictions on travel and reduced the licensing and paperwork requirements for tour operators and cruise lines.

The U.S. made a change to the requirement in June 2018, but kept in place Americans’ ability to go to Cuba with a licensed tour operator on an approved people-to-people program. But Tuesday’s announcement ends that.

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