U.S. Takes Another Step To Loosen Rules Governing Personal Travel To Cuba

Image courtesy of Rdog Xtreme

If you’ve been dreaming about visiting a certain island just to the south of the U.S., your time to travel might be nigh: the Obama administration announced amendments to federal regulations governing travel to Cuba, saying that the changes will make it easier for people to travel to the island nation.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security announced the amendments [PDF] together, which along, with the arrangement the Departments of State and Transportation made to allow scheduled air service between the two countries, will “significantly increase the ability of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba to directly engage with the Cuban people.”

Until today, Americans could travel to Cuba, but usually only if they were part of a large educational group or they work as a journalist. The new rules allow for “people-to-people educational travel.”

What does that mean, exactly? As long as you have 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,” you can travel to Cuba under the amended regulations.

Another amendment to the regulations will allow Americans to buy some Cuban exports for personal consumption in some situations. For example, if you’re traveling in Europe and you buy and consume Cuban rum or cigars, that will be totally okay with the U.S. government.

The announcement also allows Cuban nationals working in the U.S. with a valid visa to earn a salary or compensation, whereas before they were limited to compensation that covered basic living expenses. The amended regulations will also let Cubans use the U.S. dollar in financial transactions with U.S. banks.

“Today’s steps build on the actions of the last 15 months as we continue to break down economic barriers, empower the Cuban people and advance their financial freedoms, and chart a new course in U.S.-Cuba relations,” Jacob Lew, the U.S. treasury secretary, said in a statement.