Top Questions and Answers in regards to the December 17, 2014 announcement by President Obama stating the U.S. will lay out “a new course in our relations with Cuba.”
Q: Will Cuban cigars be readily available for U.S. consumers? A: No.
Q: Will the Sanctions imposed by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations end? A: No, that would require Congressional approval.
Q: Will the changes take effect immediately? A: No, OFAC made it clear, changes will not be effective immediately. The changes may take place, but, the overall Cuba Sanctions will still stand. In order for the changes to take place OFAC has to amend its Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Department of Commerce has to change its Export Administration Regulations. None of the changes will take effect until the new regulations are issued. OFAC advised it “expects to issue its regulatory amendments in the coming weeks”.
Q: Will any U.S. person be able to travel to Cuba for any reason? A: No, there are 12 specific “authorized traveler” categories, only those will be authorized to travel to Cuba. Q: What are the 12 specific “authorized traveler” categories? A: Family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalism; professional research and professional meetings; educational; religious; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
Q: Will any of these 12 “authorized traveler” categories require a license to travel to Cuba? A: No, “Specific licenses” will no longer be necessary if you are traveling to Cuba as one of the 12 “authorized travelers”. Instead, “authorized travelers” will now be able to travel to Cuba under a “general license,” the major difference being under a general license “authorized travelers” can travel to Cuba without the requirement of having to first apply to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and receive a license prior to travel to Cuba.
Q: Will exports of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, services and exports of items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems be authorized? A: Yes. But, not until OFAC amends the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Department of Commerce amends the Export Administration Regulations.
Q: Will exports of certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers be authorized? A: Yes. But, not until OFAC amends the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Department of Commerce amends the Export Administration Regulations.
Q: Will “Authorized travelers” to Cuba be able to use their U.S. credit and debit cards? A: Yes.
Q: Will “Authorized travelers” to Cuba be able to import Cuban cigars into the U.S.? A: Yes, “Authorized travelers” will be able to import into the U.S. $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined, for personal use only.
Q: Will U.S. institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions? A: Yes. Q: What is the current law? A: Currently, the Cuban Assets Control Regulations “prohibit any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction from dealing in any “property” in which Cuba or a Cuban national has or has had any interest.” The definition of “property” is very broadly defined and includes such things as contracts and services. “Importing from Cuba requires dealing in property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest, and is therefore prohibited.” Currently, “with certain exceptions, no products, technology, or services may be exported from the United States to Cuba or a Cuban national, either directly or through third countries, such as Canada or Mexico, without a license from OFAC.” Currently, it is a violation of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to sign a contract with a foreign firm if the contract terms include Cuba-related provisions, even if those provisions are contingent upon the lifting of the embargo.
As you can see, there are many details that will need to be worked out. Stay tuned. Contact me anytime with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.