CUBA

Cuba Flag
Country Description: Cuba is a developing country under the communist rule of Fidel Castro. The United States has no direct diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements, Travel Transaction Limitations: The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction have a license to engage in any transactions related to travel to, from and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist and business travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist or business travel from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada.

Transactions are authorized by general license for U.S. and foreign government officials traveling on official business, including representatives of international organizations of which the United States is a member; journalists regularly employed by a news reporting organization; and family visitors traveling once a year due to extreme humanitarian needs. The Treasury Department will consider specific licenses on a case-by-case basis for other humanitarian travel including cases of extreme hardship relating to close relatives residing in Cuba, for telecommunications activities, and for travel in connection with professional research and similar activities. Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, at the U.S. Department of the Treasury (202-622-2480). Failure to comply with these regulations could result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

Should a traveler receive a license, a passport and visa are required for entry to Cuba. For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers may contact the Cuban Interests Section, an office of the Cuban government, located at 2630 16th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, tel: (202) 797-8518.

Entry into and exit from Cuba is strictly controlled by Cuban authorities. Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally or to aid the illegal exit of Cuban nationals are punishable by jail terms of up to 5 years. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace without prior authorization from the Cuban government may result in arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities for violation of Cuban law. Any vessel or aircraft that enters the 12-mile limit off Cuba would be inside Cuban territorial waters or airspace and thus subject to the jurisdiction of the Cuban government. If persons enter Cuban territorial waters or airspace without prior permission, they may place themselves and others at serious personal risk.

On February 24, 1996, the Cuban military shot down two U.S.-registered civil aircraft in international airspace in violation of international aviation law. As a result of this action, the President declared a national emergency, invoking emergency authority relating to the regulation of the anchorage and movement of vessels, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an "Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement of Policy" that allow for vigorous enforcement action against U.S.-registered aircraft that violate Cuban territorial airspace. Additional information is available through the FAA and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Medical Facilities: Medical care does not meet U.S. standards. Many U.S. medications are unavailable. It is useful for travelers to Cuba to bring with them any prescribed medicine which is for their personal use. A copy of the prescription and a letter from the physician explaining the need for prescription drugs will facilitate entry into the country. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance providing specific overseas coverage has proved useful. Information on health matters can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559 or the CDC fax information service at (404) 332-4565. Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Crimes against foreigners continue to increase. Foreigners are prime targets for purse snatchings, pickpocketing and thefts from hotel rooms, beaches, historic sites and other attractions. For up-to-date information, contact the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport overseas should be reported to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad," which provides useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad. Both this pamphlet and "Tips for Travelers to the Caribbean" are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402.

Currency Regulations (Cuban): Since the Cuban government legalized the use of dollars in July 1993, U.S. dollars are accepted for all transactions.

Currency Regulations (U.S.): Only official government travelers traveling on official business, including representatives of international organizations of which the United States is a member, journalists, and family visitors traveling once a year due to extreme humanitarian need may spend money on travel to Cuba without obtaining special permission from the Treasury Department; such expenditures may only be for travel-related expenses at a rate not exceeding $100 per day. U.S. Treasury Department regulations now prohibit remittances, including family remittances, without a specific license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The only exception is the transfer of up to $1000 to pay travel expenses for a Cuban national who has been granted a migration document by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. For further information, travelers may contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Credit Card Transactions: U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies will not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Personal checks drawn on U.S. banks may not be accepted in Cuba. Travelers checks are sometimes acceptable, however.

Dual Nationality: The government of Cuba considers all Cuban-born U.S. citizens to be solely Cuban citizens. The Cuban government does not recognize the right or obligation of the U.S. government to protect dual U.S./Cuban citizens and has consistently denied U.S.consular officers the right to visit incarcerated dual U.S./Cuban nationals to ascertain their welfare and proper treatment under Cuban law. Dual U.S./Cuban nationals are required by Cuban law to enter and depart Cuba using Cuban passports. Using a Cuban passport for this purpose does not jeopardize one's U.S. citizenship; however, such persons must use their U.S. passports to enter and depart the U.S. and to transit any countries en route. Dual U.S./Cuban nationals may be subject to a range of restrictions and obligations, including military service, in Cuba.

Restriction on Photography: Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail and airport facilities is forbidden.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for the possession, use, and dealing of illegal drugs are severe, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences. Those accused of drug-related and other crimes can expect lengthy legal proceedings and delayed due process.

U.S. Representation/Registration: The United States does not maintain an Embassy in Cuba. U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba may contact and register with the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy, located in Havana at Calzada between L&M, Vedado; telephone (537) 33-4401 through 33-4403. There is no access to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo from within Cuba. U.S. citizens who register at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana may obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. Transportation and communication within Cuba, including Havana, can be extremely difficult. Telephone service within Cuba is poor. It may therefore be difficult for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to assist distressed U.S. citizens, should an emergency arise.

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