By: Kasara E. Davidson & Diaspora Team
We have found that there is a great deal of misinformation and confusion about travel to Cuba, resulting from recent US regulatory changes and announcements and natural disasters. And even though many of us have folks in our network who have recently traveled to the island, we also know individuals and organizations who are hesitant of this experience because of what they have heard or read.
So, my team and I decided to shed some light on some of the most common misconceptions. If you have other questions, please reach out to us in the Contact Form Below.
Hurricane Irma’s Devastation Resulted in Unsafe Travel Conditions
Truth: Although Hurricane Irma was devastating, Cuba is safe for travel.
Hurricane Irma was a devastating experience for many Cubans. The flooding reached a few miles inland from the coast and the already stressed infrastructure was further battered. However, The Cuban Government is committed to preparedness and therefore has an extensive hurricane preparedness and recovery plan for citizens and visitors. When we went to Cuba in right after Irma October in 2017, Cuba was already recovering and accepting visitors. We have sent numerous clients since our October 2017 trip, and everyone had a wonderful experience.
Hurricane Irma made landfall in Cuba on Friday, September 8, 2017 as a category 5 hurricane, and the strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It pummeled through numerous Caribbean islands, including Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Puerto Rico, and many more.
If I visit Cuba, I will be in danger of a “sonic incident."
Truth: Although the US and Cuban governments still do not know the origin or purpose of these reported incidences, no visitors have been targeted.
In late September 2017 after reported “sonic incidents,” the US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs withdrew 60% of non-essential personnel from the US Embassy in Havana, suspended the issuance of US Visas to Cuban citizens, and issued a travel warning. These “sonic incidents” reportedly took place in the diplomats’ homes and one hotel in Havana. President Raul Castro, stated that the attacks were not from the Cuban Government, and authorized the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to travel to the island to help with the investigation.
As a US Citizen, I can no longer travel to Cuba because the US Department of State withdrew Embassy staff.
Truth: No this is not true, those subject to US Jurisdiction can still travel to Cuba even though the US State Department withdrew 60% of the staff of the US Embassy in Cuba.
The US Department of State withdrew non-essential US Embassy staff after the “sonic incidents” (see Misconception #2 above). This does not prevent travel to Cuba by those subject to US Jurisdiction. The US Embassy is still available to US Citizens for emergency services.
The most recent US Government rules, regulations, and announcements regarding travel to Cuba mean that as a US Citizen I can no longer travel to Cuba.
Truth: No this is not true, those subject to US Jurisdiction can still travel to Cuba, even with the most recent regulatory changes and announcements.
The US Embargo Against Cuba has been lifted, and this is why US people have been able to travel to Cuba.
Truth: No. The US Embargo Against Cuba is still in place.
Although we have seen various changes from the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration, the Embargo has not been lifted and those subject to U.S. jurisdiction are not permitted to travel to Cuba for tourist activities - see Misconception #4 above.
For a better understanding of the Embargo, please see FAQ #14.
For a brief account of the history of the Embargo, please read “From The Triumph of the Cuban Revolution to the Beginning of the US Embargo: 1959 - 1961.”
Those subject to US jurisdiction are not permitted to travel to Cuba for tourist activities. However, individuals are permitted to travel to Cuba, if the travel activities qualify under one of the 12 travel categories that are authorized by “general license” by the US Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Asset Control (“OFAC”).
The most recent OFAC travel related changes do not prevent those subject to US Jurisdiction from traveling to Cuba, they simply modify the current exceptions to the general prohibition on tourist travel to Cuba - 12 general license categories.
In March 2018, the US Department of State issued a travel warning in response to the “sonic incidents” (see Misconception #2 above).
In November 2017, the US Department of State released a list of restricted entities and sub-entities that those subject to US jurisdiction are prohibited from having “direct financial transactions“ with. These are entities that the US Government believes are “under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel.”