December 17th 2014 opened a new era for the US-Cuba relationship.
President Obama is moving forward in trying to defeat the 54-year-old American trade embargo against Cuba. However the United States House of Representatives recently approved a number of clauses that seek to toughen U.S. sanctions on Cuba in the budget bill for 2017 financial services and general government services.
Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. There are, however, 12 categories of authorized travel. The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses in all 12 categories of authorized travel, subject to appropriate conditions. This means that individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the respective general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to travel to Cuba.
The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; 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 informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
So if you want to book solo travel opting for an educational visit, you’ll need to plan a people-to-people trip, where you meet Cuban citizens in normal daily life settings, such as schools and community centers.
Now there are multiple daily flights from Miami and more flights being added from destinations such as Tampa, New York and Orlando. However, seats still must be booked through third-party charter companies as airlines won't be able to sell tickets to Cuba directly until the “tentatively” approved regular commercial flight routes from 10 U.S. cities start making trips as soon as the next few months.
Until and if the remaining aspects of the Cuba travel restrictions are lifted by the U.S. government or if the purpose of your travel to Cuba doesn´t fall within any of the 12 authorized categories and still want to go, please follow the steps below for knowing what to do and for your best trip options through a third country.