U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba are easing
BY LESLEY CLARK MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU
01/15/2015 9:39 AM 01/15/2015 10:34 AM
New rules that will make it easier to travel to Cuba — and bring back
Cuban cigars — will go into effect Friday, less than a month after
President Barack Obama announced plans to restore long-severed
diplomatic ties with the communist-led island.
The new Treasury and Commerce Department regulations — to be published
Friday in the Federal Register — include making it easier to travel to
Cuba and raising the limits on how much money can be sent to Cuba.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the changes a
“significant step forward” in carrying out Obama’s new policy.
“These changes will immediately enable the American people to provide
more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent
upon the state-driven economy, and help facilitate our growing
relationship with the Cuban people,” Earnest said in a statement.
The changes will mean that travelers who meet certain categories will no
longer need to apply for a license to travel to Cuba. The categories
include family visits, official U.S. or foreign governments,
journalistic, 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; export,
import, or transmission of information.
Authorized U.S. travelers to Cuba will be allowed to import up to $400
worth of goods acquired in Cuba for personal use. This includes no more
than $100 of alcohol or tobacco.
The per diem rate previously imposed on travelers will no longer apply,
and there will be no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses.
Travelers also will be allowed to use U.S. credit and debit cards in Cuba.
Travel agents and airlines will be authorized to provide travel and air
carrier services without the a specific license from the Treasury
Department and U.S. insurers will be allowed to provide coverage for
global health, life, or travel insurance policies for individuals who
travel to Cuba.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has questioned the legality of the
changes, blasted the announcement, calling them a “windfall for the
Castro regime that will be used to fund its repression against Cubans,
as well as its activities against U.S. national interests in Latin
America and beyond.”
Other changes include lifting the limit on cash remittances to Cuban
nationals other than certain prohibited Cuban Government and Cuban
Communist Party officials will be increased from $500 to $2,000 per quarter.
Commerce Secretary Secretary Penny Pritzker, who plans to visit Cuba
later this year to boost “commerical diplomacy efforts,” said the
regulations change export policy and authorize the flow of certain goods
and services to Cuba without a license, to spur private sector activity
and encourage entrepreneurship in Cuba.
“These are smart changes in America’s outdated policy that will help the
Cuban people realize an improved standard of living, greater economic
independence, and increased prosperity,” she said.
Source: U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba are easing | The Miami Herald –