Study Abroad in Cuba

Despite normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, there are still challenges in setting up study abroad programs for U.S.-based students on the island.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury states the following (1/26/16):

“OFAC has issued general licenses within the 12 categories of authorized travel for many travel- related transactions to, from, or within Cuba that previously required a specific license (i.e., an application and a case-by-case determination).”

In other words, a general (or ‘blanket’) license now covers educational travel (one of the twelve categories). The study abroad provider does not need to apply for a separate license. For those study abroad providers attempting to cut corners and have students go on tourist visas: bad idea. Travel to Cuba purely for tourist activities, as of 1/26/16, is not allowed:

“Consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), travel-related transactions involving Cuba are only permitted for the 12 categories of activities identified in the CACR. Travel-related transactions for other purposes remain prohibited.”

For that reason, study abroad providers should use the general license as educational activities do fall within the 12 categories.

So what are educational activities? Study abroad is one.

The new and improved general license makes things easier:

“[The] general license authorizes, subject to conditions, faculty, staff, and students at U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools to engage in certain educational activities in Cuba, Cuban scholars to engage in certain educational activities in the United States, and certain activities to facilitate licensed educational programs.”

This applies to study abroad for secondary schools and secondary school students, as well:

“Educational exchanges sponsored by Cuban or U.S. secondary schools involving secondary school students’ participation in a formal course of study or in a structured educational program offered by a secondary school or other academic institution, and led by a teacher or other secondary school official, are authorized under this general license.”

Study abroad and “People-to-People Travel” under the general license (what we are calling a blanket license) requires some translation:

“[The] general license authorizes, subject to conditions, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in certain educational exchanges in Cuba under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact.”

The ‘an organization that is a person’ is slightly awkward. It seems that ‘an organization that is a person’ means that the organization must have a representative present:

“[…] an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization must accompany each group traveling to Cuba to ensure the full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”

The “organization” in a People-to-People context is defined as follows: “an entity subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors educational exchanges that do not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program and that promote people-to-people contact.”

In our next post, we will explore what U.S. organizations facilitating people-to-people travel need to do in terms of working with a Cuban tour operator.

In terms of flights from the U.S. to Cuba: “Yes, provided that you are authorized to travel to Cuba pursuant to a general or specific license. Airlines subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to provide air carrier services to authorized travelers.” Can you travel to Cuba from a third country (not the U.S.): “Yes, a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in authorized travel-related transactions may travel to Cuba from a third country or to a third country from Cuba. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to and from Cuba via a third country may only do so if their travel-related transactions are authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, and are subject to the same restrictions and requirements as persons traveling directly from the United States.”

Study abroad programs are allowed to set up an office in Cuba:

“Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction in the following categories are authorized to establish and maintain a physical presence, such as an office, warehouse, or retail outlet, in Cuba to engage in transactions authorized by or exempt from the CACR: news bureaus; exporters of certain goods authorized for export or reexport pursuant to 31 CFR §§ 515.533 and 515.559; entities providing mail or parcel transmission services; providers of telecommunications or internet-based services; entities organizing or conducting certain educational activities; religious organizations; and providers of carrier and certain travel services.”

The relations are opening many new ways to travel to Cuba legally! We will continue to document these opportunities!


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