General Licenses for the Independent Traveler

How to Acquire a General License to Travel to Cuba

If you would prefer to travel to Cuba independently and are interested in procuring a general license on your own, here is how to do it:

Step 1:

Listed below are most of the general license categories considered for Cuban travel listed in order of most to least common. If you would like to peruse full category descriptions, please visit the OFAC website.

  1. Professional research, to attend professional meetings relating directly to said traveler’s career, professional background, or professional field. For instance, making a documentary film would be considered professional research. (§515.564)
  2. Educational activities, including People-to-People travel, for secondary school, university, and college students, chaperones, faculty, and staff. Graduate and undergraduate degree academic research relating specifically to Cuba. Also, faculty and staff may visit Cuba autonomously in order to prepare and research for later student trips. To Clarify: This category requires a formal course of study, and so Spanish lessons would not apply to this category (§515.565)
  3. Religious organizations as well as their staff and members to engage in scheduled religious activities (§515.566)
  4. Human rights organizations, NGOs, independent organizations, and individuals who support the Cuban populace (§515.574)
  5. Visiting a family member or relative who resides in Cuba as well as a relative of someone you reside with as family (§515.561)
  6. Humanitarian projects including environmental projects, medical and health-related projects, construction projects, formal and non-formal educational training, and so on (§515.575)
  7. Involvement in workshops, public performances, clinics, exhibitions, athletic performances, and other competitions (§515.567)
  8. Business trips for importation or exportation of telecommunications, internet hardware and services, and exportation of agricultural products (§515.545)
  9. Activities regarding private foundations, research, or educational institutions (§515.576)
  10. Governmental employee or government organization official business (§515.562)

So, what is a People to People tour in Cuba?  Find out more, here.

Step 2:

Create General License

You can create your license by either going online and completing a generic affidavit or writing a letter containing the following information:

  • Travel dates
  • High level travel purpose
  • Specific category for general license (code citation applies here)
  • Signature and date

You do not need to notarize these forms. It would be best to provide paper evidence even though the regulations do not currently have documentation requirements; while there is no paper “license,” it is best to provide some evidence to the customs official. The letter or affidavit will be sufficient.

It is important to note that each individual (even children) involved in the party requires a general license. To clarify, a spouse of a university professor traveling for professional reasons would not qualify for a general license.

Step 3:

Documenting Travel and Travel Transactions

OFAC regulations require that travelers maintain clear records of travels throughout Cuba even with a license. Also, travelers are required to retain possession of these documents for up to 5 years in the unlikely event that the OFAC solicits them. Therefore, keep documents regarding purchases or transactions relating to your Cuba travels such as flight and accommodation records as well as itineraries and evidence for travel purposes.

Step 4:

Returning to the U.S.

You will only be required to present your license to officials upon returning to the U.S. from your trip to Cuba. As other countries do not enforce America’s travel embargo regulations, citizens of other countries will not have expectations regarding your license.

Upon returning home, you will fill out an immigration and customs form. On the form, write “Cuba (under general license §xxx.xxx)” under the “Countries Visited” portion. Usually officials do not scrutinize these forms, and you can freely acknowledge your Cuba travels if asked. You will only be required to show your license to an official if asked, and such a request is rare unless you are transporting tobacco back home.