Travel to Cuba - Implications for Education Abroad Programs

November 14, 2017

 

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) codified at 31 CFR Part 515 govern most transactions between Cuba and the United States, including travel to Cuba. The scope of travel for educational activities is regulated by 31 CFR 515.565.

Originally promulgated in 1963 under the Trading With the Enemy Act, the CACR were most recently amended effective November 9, 2017 by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in a Federal Register notice published at 82 FR 51998.

Read the CACR Amendments Effective November 9, 2017

The November 9, 2017 Regulations

The November 9, 2017 regulations implement changes called for by a June 16, 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum titled "Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba," signed by President Trump on June 16, 2017. The Memorandum directed agencies to amend a number of regulatory changes on travel to Cuba that had been issued under the Obama administration.

Read the June 16, 2017 Presidential Memorandum

NAFSA is in close contact with the OFAC, to gain clarification on the new regulations. The changes as currently read by NAFSA do not indicate significant impacts to the types of education abroad programs run by a majority of our members; however, there are nuances that need to be addressed.

Travel Under a General License

"Accompanied" Educational Activities

The same educational activities authorized prior to November 9, 2017 remain authorized under a General License in the new regulations at 31 CFR 515.565(a)(2), but with the following new conditions:

  1. The activities must be under the auspices of an organization subject to U.S. jurisdiction;
  2. All travelers must be accompanied by a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who is an employee, paid consultant, agent, or other representative of the sponsoring organization; and
  3. Transactions must be "directly incident" to the activities (under the prior regulations they just had to be "related" to the activities)

The activities authorized under this provision include:

  1. Participation in a structured educational program in Cuba as part of a course offered for credit by a U.S. graduate or undergraduate degree-granting academic institution that is sponsoring the program;
  2. Noncommercial academic research in Cuba specifically related to Cuba and for the purpose of obtaining an undergraduate or graduate degree;
  3. Participation in a formal course of study at a Cuban academic institution, provided the formal course of study in Cuba will be accepted for credit toward the student's graduate or undergraduate degree;
  4. Teaching at a Cuban academic institution related to an academic program at the Cuban institution, provided that the individual is regularly employed by a U.S. or other non-Cuban academic institution;
  5. Sponsorship of a Cuban scholar to teach or engage in other scholarly activity at the sponsoring U.S. academic institution (in addition to those transactions authorized by the general license contained in §515.571).
  6. 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. This includes participation by a reasonable number of adult chaperones to accompany the secondary school students to Cuba;
  7. Sponsorship or co-sponsorship of non-commercial academic seminars, conferences, symposia, and workshops related to Cuba or global issues involving Cuba and attendance at such events by faculty, staff, and students of a participating U.S. academic institution;
  8. Establishment of academic exchanges and joint non-commercial academic research projects with universities or academic institutions in Cuba;
  9. Provision of standardized testing services, including professional certificate examinations, university entrance examinations, and language examinations, and related preparatory services for such exams, to Cuban nationals, wherever located;
  10. Provision of Internet-based courses, including distance learning and Massive Open Online Courses, to Cuban nationals, wherever located, provided that the course content is at the undergraduate level or below;
  11. The organization of, and preparation for, activities described in paragraphs (a)(2)(i) through (a)(2)(x) of this section by an employee, paid consultant, agent, or other representative of the sponsoring organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction; and
  12. Facilitation by an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction, or a member of the staff of such an organization, of licensed educational activities in Cuba on behalf of U.S. academic institutions or secondary schools

A provision at 31 CFR 515.565(d) is a "grandfather clause" that allows individuals who "completed at least one travel-related transaction such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) for that particular trip prior to November 9, 2017" to engage in transactions to complete that trip if they are consistent with the regulations as they existed on June 16, 2017.

"Unaccompanied" Educational Activities

The new regulations at 31 CFR 515.565(a)(1) also identify five of the 12 general activities involving travel that can be done without being accompanied by a representative of the sponsoring organization, if the student or scholar and school meet the following additional special conditions:

  • Enrollment status of the student. The student must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at the U.S. institution.
  • Accreditation status of the school. The school must be an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate degree-granting academic institution.
  • Duration of the program. The program of study in Cuba (for students) or the teaching (for faculty) "is no shorter than 10 weeks in duration."
  • Teaching at a Cuban institution. A person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who is teaching at a Cuban academic institution must be "an individual regularly employed in a teaching capacity at the U.S. institution."
  • Program development. "The organization of, and preparation for, the activities described in paragraphs (a)(1)(i) through (a)(1)(v) of this section by a full-time permanent employee of the U.S. institution. An individual engaging in such transactions must obtain a letter from the U.S. institution stating that the individual is a full-time permanent employee of the U.S. institution."

The five activities that can be "unaccompanied" under this provision include:

  1. Participation in a structured educational program in Cuba as part of a course offered at the U.S. institution;
  2. Noncommercial academic research in Cuba specifically related to Cuba and for the purpose of obtaining a graduate degree, where the research in Cuba will be accepted for credit toward that degree;
  3. Participation in a formal course of study at a Cuban academic institution, provided the formal course of study in Cuba will be accepted for credit toward the student's undergraduate or graduate degree at the U.S. institution;
  4. Teaching at a Cuban academic institution by an individual regularly employed in a teaching capacity at the U.S. institution, provided the teaching activities are related to an academic program at the Cuban institution and provided that the duration of the teaching will be no shorter than 10 weeks.
  5. Sponsorship of a Cuban scholar to teach or engage in other scholarly activity at the U.S. institution.

Other Travel

For a complete description of the General License allowances and restrictions, see the Code of Federal Regulations, 31 CFR 515.565.

Purely touristic travel from the United States to Cuba remains prohibited, and the rules for people-to-people changes under 31 CFR 515.565(b)have been tightened.

Advocacy

As long as the statutory trade embargo and travel restrictions are in effect, the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce determine the regulations regarding travel and engagement with Cuba and the Cuban people. Full normalization requires an Act of Congress to restore relations between our two countries. Visit www.connectingourworld.org/cuba to learn more and take action.

FINANCIAL PROVISIONS FOR TRAVEL TO CUBA

(Updated April 18, 2017)

  • There are no specific spending limits for American citizens on authorized expenses while in Cuba.
  • Authorized travelers from the United States are allowed to make transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and goods for personal consumption.
  • Under a new general license, authorized travelers from the United States may open and maintain bank accounts in order to access funds while located in Cuba and are allowed to use credit and debit cards issued by US financial institutions. However, travelers are advised to check with their financial institutions before traveling to Cuba to determine whether the institution has established the necessary mechanisms for its issued credit or debt card to be used in Cuba. Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted in Cuba.

GOVERNMENT RESOURCES ON CUBA

U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control

U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security

U.S. Department of State

The White House: Office of the Press Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation