New OFAC Regulations on Travel to Cuba

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On March 11, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) posted a new regulation, plus a guidance letter outlining how the provisions in the FY 09 omnibus spending bill would be implemented, as related to Cuban-American family travel and ag sales.

The guidance letter issued on Tuesday by OFAC officially lifted 2004 restrictions enacted by President Bush. The Treasury Department website indicates that Cuban Americans can follow rules that existed prior to June 2004, which included:

  • A trip every 12 months with a general license that does not require an application process.

  • Passengers wanting to travel again within the same year can apply for ''specific licenses.'' Approval will be given case by case.

  • A broader definition of who qualifies as family and can be visited.

  • A per diem spending of $179.

  • Furthermore, White House spokesperson Gannet Tseggai said “The guidance issued yesterday by the Treasury Department was issued pursuant to a law passed by Congress. The President was not involved in the drafting of that provision, and it does not take the place of his own review of family visits and family cash remittances.” Clarifying that Obama has yet to fulfill his campaign promise announced in Miami in May 2009.

    See a Miami Herald analysis of the changes here .

    See the pdf containing the regulation and the guidance letter here .

    This is big news for all of us that have been fighting for change in Cuba policy; we should celebrate, and our job is not completed.   The changes announced by OFAC make good forward progress, and we applaud the action as a positive step that begins to unravel the harsh and inhumane restrictions established by the previous administration in 2004. But OFAC's new regulation and guidance letter do not fulfill President Obama's campaign promise to remove ALL restrictions on Cuban-American family travel, nor does this action remove urgency from the Congress to act legislatively to remove restrictions on travel for ALL Americans. As we take a deep breath and prepare for the continuing push to end the full travel ban, we encourage you to gather with some friends and celebrate this positive momentum – as evidence of the good work that you have been doing.