NOTE: Effective June 5, 2019, President Trump and the U.S. Treasury Department announced increased restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, which continues to be allowed under a “general license” in each of the 12 statutory categories, and which do NOT entail an advance or specific application process. The summary information below should be accurate since June 5, 2019, and has not been changed since. [Last edited: Feb. 28, 2020.] A more detailed description is available from marazultours.com and http://www.marazultours.com/faq/#.
Nearly every U.S. national can visit Cuba without applying for a license, and it is also not necessary to be part of a group tour in many instances.
The 12 statutory categories of travel, which do not require a “specific license,” are:
- Professional research or attending professional meetings in Cuba relating to the traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise. As in other categories, travelers are expected to keep supportive documentation for 5 years. [See 31 CFR 515.564]
- Educational activities in Cuba for US university, college and secondary school faculty, staff and students, with limited chaperon opportunities. Faculty and staff can visit Cuba to research and prepare for student trips. [See 31 CFR 515.565]
- Religious activities in Cuba by any US person (full time) [Anyone, including atheists can travel under this category. If they attend/observe/participate in a full time schedule.] [See 31 CFR 515.566]
- Humanitarian activities in Cuba. [See 31 CFR 515.575]
- Participation in public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions, and athletic and other competitions. [See 31 CFR 515.567]
- Business visits for exportation and importation of informational materials, telecommunications and internet hardware and services; and exportation of agricultural products; as well as sales of tools, equipment and building materials outside the state sector. [2 categories; see 31 CFR 515.545, and 515.533]
- Support for the Cuban people (not defined) by recognized human rights organizations; or by individuals or NGOs for purposes such as to aid civil society, etc. [See 31 CFR 515.574]
- Visiting a relative or family member in Cuba. [See 31 CFR 515.561]
- Freelance & other journalistic activities in Cuba. [See 31 CFR 515.563]
- Activities by private foundations or research or educational institutes with an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba [See 31 CFR 515.576]
- Official US government business, and visits to Cuba by foreign diplomatic staff residing in the US. [See 31 CFR 515.562]
If you fit into one of these categories you are automatically authorized to visit Cuba legally without having to apply for a specific license. You simply book Cuba travel after affirming your status and go to the island. However, travelers are expected to keep supportive documentation for 5 years.