Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Restrictions on travel to Cuba have been a key and often contentious component in U.S. efforts to
isolate Cuba’s communist government for much of the past 40 years. Over time, there have been
numerous changes to the restrictions, and for five years, from 1977 until 1982, there were no
restrictions on travel to Cuba. Under the Bush Administration, enforcement of U.S. restrictions on
Cuba travel has increased, and restrictions on travel and on private remittances to Cuba have been
tightened. In March 2003, the Administration eliminated travel for people-to-people educational
exchanges unrelated to academic coursework.
In June 2004, the Bush Administration further restricted family and educational travel, eliminated
the category of fully-hosted travel, and restricted remittances so that they could only be sent to
the remitter’s immediate family. Initially there was mixed reaction to the Bush Administration’s
June 2004 tightening of Cuba travel and remittance restrictions, but opposition to the policy has
grown, especially within the Cuban American community regarding the restrictions on family
travel and remittances.
Dating back to 2000, there have been numerous legislative efforts to ease restrictions on travel to
Cuba in various ways. From 2000-2004, one or both houses of Congress approved amendments to
appropriations bills that would have eased restrictions on travel, but these provisions ultimately th
were stripped out of final enacted measures. In the 109 Congress, the House rejected
amendments to appropriations measures in 2005 and 2006 that would have eased Cuba travel th
restrictions. In the 110 Congress, several House and Senate committee versions of
appropriations bills (H.R. 2829, S. 1859, H.R. 7323, S. 3260, and S. 3289) had provisions that
would have eased restrictions on travel to Cuba in various ways, but none of these provisions
were included in final enacted legislation. The Bush Administration regularly threatened to veto
legislation if it contained provisions weakening Cuba sanctions.
Numerous other bills were introduced in the 110th Congress that would have eased restrictions on
travel and remittance in various ways, but no action was taken on these measures. Two of these th
initiatives already have been re-introduced in the 111 Congress: H.R. 332 (Lee), which would
ease restrictions on educational travel to Cuba, and H.R. 188 (Serrano), which would lift overall
economic sanctions on Cuba, including restrictions on travel and remittances.
During the electoral campaign, President Obama pledged to lift restrictions on family travel to
Cuba as well as restrictions on Cuban Americans sending remittances to Cuba. Senator Hillary
Clinton reiterated President Obama’s pledge during her confirmation hearing for Secretary of
State on January 15, 2009, but indicated that the Administration did not yet have a timeline on the
For additional information on Cuba, see CRS Report RL33819, Cuba: Issues for the 110th
Congress, by Mark P. Sullivan.
Most Recent Developments.............................................................................................................1
Background to Travel Restrictions..................................................................................................2
Chronology of Cuba Travel Restrictions...................................................................................2
Current Permissible Travel to Cuba................................................................................................6
Current Restrictions on Remittances...............................................................................................8
Reaction to the June 2004 Tightening of Travel and Remittance Restrictions................................9
Estimates of U.S. Travelers to Cuba...............................................................................................11
OFAC Review of Travel and Carrier Service Providers.................................................................11
Enforcement of Cuba Travel Restrictions.....................................................................................13
GAO Report on Enforcement of Cuba Sanctions...................................................................15
Arguments for Lifting Cuba Travel Restrictions...........................................................................16
Arguments for Maintaining Cuba Travel Restrictions..................................................................17
Legislative Initiatives in the 111th Congress..................................................................................18
Legislative Initiatives in the 110th Congress..................................................................................18
First Session Action.................................................................................................................18
Second Session Action............................................................................................................18 th
Additional Initiatives in the 110 Congress............................................................................19
Legislative Initiatives in the Aftermath of 2008 Hurricanes.............................................19
Legislative Initiatives in the 109th Congress..................................................................................20
First Session Action.................................................................................................................20
Second Session Action............................................................................................................21 th
Additional Initiatives in the 109 Congress............................................................................21
Legislative Initiatives in the 108th Congress..................................................................................22
First Session Action.................................................................................................................22
Second Session Action............................................................................................................23 th
Additional Initiatives in the 108 Congress............................................................................24
Legislative Initiatives in the 107th Congress..................................................................................25
First Session Action.................................................................................................................25
Second Session Action............................................................................................................25 th
Additional Legislative Initiatives in the 107 Congress.........................................................27
Legislative Initiatives in the 106th Congress..................................................................................27
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................28
On January 15, 2009, during her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for
Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton reiterated President-elect Obama’s pledge to lift
restrictions on family travel and remittances, but also indicated that the Administration did not
have a timeline on the change.
On September 18, 2008, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International
Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight held a hearing on U.S. restrictions on Cuban-
American travel to Cuba.
From mid-August through September 10, 2008, four major storms (Hurricanes Gustav and Ike,
and Tropical Storms Hanna and Fay) caused widespread damage throughout Cuba. In the
aftermath of the hurricanes, a number of observers, including some Members of Congress, called
for the temporary relaxation of restrictions on family travel and remittances as well as on the
provision of gift parcels to Cuba. On September 5, 2008, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee Howard Berman asked President Bush to suspend for 90 days restrictions on family
visits, remittances, and gift parcels. Several legislative initiatives were introduced that would
have temporarily eased U.S. embargo restrictions in these areas: S.Amdt. 5581 (Dodd) to S. 3001,
H.R. 6913 (Flake), and H.R. 6962 (Delahunt). (See “Legislative Initiatives in the Aftermath of
On August 28, 2008, a U.S. Federal district judge in Miami stuck down a 2006 Florida state law
that prohibited Florida state colleges from using state and nonstate funds for travel to countries on
the State Department’s state sponsors of terrorism list, which includes Cuba.
On July 21, 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the FY2009
Agriculture Appropriations bill, S. 3289 (S.Rept. 110-426), with a provision that would ease
restrictions on travel to Cuba for the sale of agricultural and medical goods. It would allow for a
general license for such travel instead of a specific license that requires permission from the
Treasury Department. The measure had been approved by the Committee on July 17, 2008.
On July 14, 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the FY2009
Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, S. 3260 (S.Rept. 110-417),
which includes provisions easing restrictions on family travel and on travel to Cuba relating to the
commercial sale of agricultural and medical goods. With regard to family travel, the bill would
provide that no funds may be used to administer, implement, or enforce the Administration’s June
2004 tightening of restrictions related to travel to visit relatives in Cuba. With regard to travel for
agricultural or medical sales, the bill would allow for a general license for such travel instead of a
specific license that requires permission from the Treasury Department.
On June 30, 2008, a group of south Florida travel agencies specializing in travel to Cuba filed suit
in U.S. federal court in Miami challenging a recent Florida state law related to Cuba travel. That
law requires travel agencies that sell trips to countries on the State Department’s list of state
sponsors of terrorism (currently Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea, which could be
removed this summer) to pay annual fees up to $2,500 and to post up to a $250,000 bond required
for the agencies to operate in Florida.
On June 25, 2008, the House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2009
Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that includes provisions easing
restrictions on family travel and U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. The bill would liberalize
family travel to Cuba by allowing for such travel once a year (instead of the current restriction of
once every three years) and by allowing such travel to visit aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and
first cousins. The bill subsequently was introduced as H.R. 7323 (Serrano) and reported (H.Rept.
On March 5, 2008, Cuban Americans living in Vermont filed a complaint in U.S. federal court in
Burlington, Vermont, that U.S. restrictions on family travel to Cuba violate their civil rights.
Affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Massachusetts, and Vermont filed a
brief in support of the complaint on May 16, 2008.
Since the United States imposed a comprehensive trade embargo against Cuba in the early 1960s,
there have been numerous policy changes to restrictions on travel to Cuba. The embargo
regulations do not ban travel itself, but place restrictions on any financial transactions related to
travel to Cuba, which effectively result in a travel ban. Accordingly, from 1963 until 1977, travel
to Cuba was effectively banned under the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) issued by
the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to implement the embargo.
In 1977, the Carter Administration made changes to the regulations that essentially lifted the
travel ban. In 1982, the Reagan Administration made other changes to the CACR that once again
restricted travel to Cuba, but allowed for travel-related transactions by certain categories of
travelers. Under the Clinton Administration, there were several changes to the Treasury
Department regulations, with some at first tightening the restrictions, and others later loosening
Under the Bush Administration, the travel regulations were tightened significantly, with
additional restrictions on family visits, educational travel, and travel for those involved in
amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions. In addition, the
categories of fully-hosted travel and people to people educational exchanges unrelated to
academic coursework were eliminated as permissible travel to Cuba. The Bush has also cracked
down on those traveling to Cuba illegally, further restricted religious travel by changing licensing
guidelines for such travel, and suspended the licenses of several travel service providers in
Florida for license violations. The regulations that remain in place today are less restrictive than
those in place from 1963 to 1977, but more restrictive than those in place from 1977-1982 when
the travel ban was essentially lifted.
1960—In the first trade restrictions on Cuba after the rise to power of Fidel Castro, President
Eisenhower placed most U.S. exports to Cuba under validated license controls, except for
nonsubsidized food, medicines, and medical supplies. The action did not include restrictions on
1962/1963—In February 1962, President Kennedy imposed a trade embargo on Cuba because of
the Castro regime’s ties to the Soviet Union. Pursuant to the President’s directive, the Department
of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued the Cuban Import Regulations.
On July 9, 1963, OFAC issued a more comprehensive set of prohibitions, the Cuban Assets
Control Regulations, which effectively banned travel by prohibiting any transactions with Cuba.
1977—In March, the Carter Administration announced the lifting of restrictions on U.S. travel to
Cuba that had been in place since the early 1960s. The Carter Administration lifted the travel ban
by issuing a general license for travel-related transactions for those visiting Cuba. Direct flights
were also allowed.
1982—In April, the Reagan Administration reimposed restrictions on travel to Cuba, although it
allowed for certain categories of travel, including travel by U.S. government officials, employees
of news or film making organizations, persons engaging in professional research, or persons
visiting their close relatives. It did not allow for ordinary tourist or business travel that had been
allowed since the Carter Administration’s 1977 action.
1984—On June 28, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in the case of Regan v. Wald, rejected a
challenge to the ban on travel to Cuba and asserted the executive branch’s right to impose travel
restrictions for national security reasons.
1993—The Clinton Administration, in June 1993, slightly amended restrictions on U.S. travel to
Cuba. Two additional categories of travel were allowed: travel to Cuba “for clearly defined
educational or religious activities”; and travel “for activities of recognized human rights
organizations.” In both categories, travelers were required to apply for a specific license from
1994—In August, President Clinton announced several measures against the Cuban government
in response to an escalation in the number of Cubans fleeing to the United States. Among these
measures, the Administration tightened travel restrictions by prohibiting family visits under a
general license, and allowing specific licenses for family visits only “when extreme hardship is
demonstrated in cases involving extreme humanitarian need” such as terminal illness or severe
medical emergency. Such visits required a specific license from OFAC. In addition, professional
researchers were required to apply for a specific license, whereas since 1982 they had been able
to travel freely under a general license. (Federal Register, August 30, 1994, pp. 44884-44886.)
1995—In October, President Clinton announced measures to ease some U.S. restrictions on travel
and other activities with Cuba, with the overall objective of promoting democracy and the free
flow of ideas. The new measures included authorizing general licenses for transactions relating to
travel to Cuba for Cuban Americans making yearly visits to close relatives in “circumstances that
demonstrate extreme humanitarian need.” This reversed the August 1994 action that required
specific licenses. However, those traveling for this purpose more than once in a 12-month period
would need to apply to OFAC for a specific license. In addition, the new measures allowed for
specific licenses for free-lance journalists traveling to Cuba. (Federal Register, October 20, 1995,
1996—On February 26, following the shootdown of two U.S. civilian planes two days earlier by
Cuban fighter jets, President Clinton took several measures against Cuba, including the indefinite
suspension of charter flights between Cuba and the United States. Qualified licensed travelers
could go to Cuba, provided their flights were routed through third countries.
1998—On March 20, following Pope John Paul II’s January trip to Cuba, President Clinton
announced several changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba, including the resumption of licensing for
direct charter flights to Cuba. On July 2, OFAC issued licenses to nine air charter companies to
provide direct passenger flights from Miami International Airport to Havana’s Jose Marti Airport.
1999—On January 5, President Clinton announced several measures to support the Cuban people
that were intended to augment changes implemented in March 1998. Among the measures
introduced was the expansion of direct passenger charter flights from additional U.S. cities other
than Miami. In August, the State Department announced that direct flights to Cuba would be
allowed from New York and Los Angeles. In addition, President Clinton also announced in
January 1999 that measures would be taken to increase people-to-people exchanges. As a result,
on May 13, 1999, OFAC issued a number of changes to the Cuba embargo regulations that
effectively loosened restrictions on certain categories of travelers to Cuba. Travel for professional
research became possible under a general license, and travel for a wide range of educational,
religious, sports competition, and other activities became possible with specific licenses
authorized by OFAC on a case-by-case basis. In addition, those traveling to Cuba to visit a close
family member under either a general or specific license only needed to “demonstrate
humanitarian need,” as opposed to “extreme humanitarian need” that had been required since
2000—In October, Congress approved and the President signed the Trade Sanctions Reform and
Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (Title IX of P.L. 106-387), which included a provision that
prohibited travel-related transactions for “tourist activities,” which as set forth in Section
910(b)(2) of the act are defined as any activity not authorized or referenced in the existing travel
regulations (31 CFR 515.560, paragraphs (1) through (12)). The congressional action appeared to
circumscribe the authority of the OFAC to issue specific travel licenses on a case-by-case basis
that do not fit neatly within the categories of travel already allowed by the regulations.
2001—On July 12, 2001, OFAC published regulations pursuant to the provisions of the Trade
Sanctions and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (Title IX of P.L. 106-387 )that prohibited travel-
related transactions for “tourist activities.” (Federal Register, July 12, 2001, pp. 36683-36688.)
On July 13, 2001, President Bush announced that he had asked the Treasury Department to
enhance and expand the capabilities of OFAC to prevent, among other things, “unlicensed and
2003—On January 29, 2003, OFAC published proposed enforcement guidelines (as an appendix
to 31 CFR Part 501) for all its economic sanctions programs and additional guidelines (as an
appendix to 31 CFR Part 515) for the Cuba sanctions program. The general guidelines provide a
procedural framework for OFAC’s enforcement of economic sanctions, while the Cuba specific
guidelines consists of penalties for different embargo violations. (Federal Register, January 29,
On March 24, 2003, OFAC announced that the Cuba travel regulations were being amended to
ease travel to Cuba for those visiting close relatives. (Federal Register, March 24, 2003, pp.
14141-14148.) Travel is now permitted to visit relatives to within three degrees of relationship of
the traveler and is not restricted to travel in circumstances of humanitarian need. The new
regulations also increased the amount a traveler may carry, up to $3,000 (compared to $300
previously), although the limit of $300 per quarter destined for each household remains. Finally,
the regulations were tightened for certain types of educational travel. People-to-people
educational exchanges unrelated to academic coursework are no longer allowed. Some groups
have lauded the restriction of these educational exchanges because they believe they have become
an opportunity for unrestricted travel; others criticize the Administration’s decision to restrict the
second largest category of travel to Cuba in which ordinary people have been able to travel and
exchange with their counterparts on the island.
On October 10, 2003, President Bush instructed the Department of Homeland Security, as part of
a broader initiative on Cuba, to increase inspections of travelers and shipments to and from Cuba
in order to more strictly enforce the trade and travel embargo.
2004—On February 26, 2004, President Bush ordered the Department of Homeland Security to
expand its policing of the waters between Florida and Cuba with the objective of stopping
pleasure boating traffic. (Federal Register, March 1, 2004, pp. 9315-9517.)
On June 16, 2004, OFAC published changes to the CACR implementing the President’s
directives to implement certain recommendations of the Commission for Assistance to a Free
Cuba. The new regulations tightened travel restrictions in several ways. Fully-hosted travel was
eliminated as a legal category of permissible travel. Family visits were restricted to one trip every
three years under a specific license to visit only immediate family (grandparents, grandchildren,
parents, siblings, spouses, and children) for a period not to exceed 14 days. The daily amount of
money that family visitors can spend while in Cuba was reduced from the State Department per
diem rate (currently $179) to $50. Specific licenses for visiting non-Cuban nationals in Cuba
(such as a student) are now limited to when the family member visited is in “exigent
circumstances.” The general license for amateur or semi-professional athletic teams to travel to
Cuba to engage in sports competitions was eliminated; such travel now requires a specific license.
(Federal Register, June 16, 2004, pp. 33768-33774)
Specific licenses for educational activities were further restricted in several ways: the institutional
licenses are restricted to undergraduate and graduate institutions, while the category of
educational exchanges sponsored by secondary schools was eliminated; the duration of
institutional licenses was shortened from two to one year; three types of licensed educational
activities—structural education programs in Cuba offered as part of a course at the licensed
institution, formal courses of study offered at a Cuban academic institution; and teaching at a
Cuban academic institution—are required to be no shorter than 10 weeks.
The new regulations also further restricted sending cash remittances to Cuba. Quarterly
remittances of $300 may still be sent, but are now restricted to members of the remitter’s
immediate family and may not be remitted to certain government officials and certain members of
the Cuban Communist Party. The regulations were also changed to reduce the amount of
remittances that authorized travelers may carry to Cuba, from $3000 to $300. This reversed
OFAC’s March 2003 changes to the regulations that had increased the amount that authorized
travelers could carry to $3000.
On June 22, 2004, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
published regulations related to the recommendations of the Commission for Assistance to a Free
Cuba. The new regulations placed new limits on gift parcels sent to Cuba and personal baggage
of travelers going to Cuba. Gift parcels may no longer contain items such as seeds, clothing,
personal hygiene items, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, and
soap-making equipment. Baggage is now limited to 44 pounds. (Federal Register, pp. 34565-
On July 8, 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard published regulations requiring U.S. vessels less than 100
meters to have a Coast Guard permit to enter Cuban territorial waters. (Federal Register, pp.
2005—On March 31, 2005, OFAC made changes to its guidelines for license applications related
to religious travel. Specific licenses issued under CFR 515.566(b) for religious organizations now
only authorize up to 25 individuals to travel to Cuba no more than once per calendar quarter. The
specific licenses under this section will not be valid for more than one year. (OFAC,
Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-related Transactions
Involving Cuba, Revised September 2004, p. 40, the relevant paragraph was updated March 31,
The travel regulations can be found at 31CFR 515.560, which references other sections of the
Cuban Assets Control Regulations for travel-related transaction licensing criteria. (For an
overview of the Treasury Department regulations on travel to Cuba, see OFAC’s website
http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/). At present, certain categories of travelers may
travel to Cuba under a general license, which means that there is no need to obtain special
permission from OFAC. In addition, a wide variety of travelers engaging in family visits, and
educational, religious, humanitarian, and other activities may be eligible for specific licenses.
Applications for specific licenses are reviewed and granted by OFAC on a case by case basis.
Some specific licenses may authorize multiple trips to Cuba over an extended period of time.
The general license categories include the following:
• Officials of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain
intergovernmental organizations traveling on official business (31 CFR 515.562);
• Persons regularly employed as journalists by a news reporting organization or by
persons regularly employed as supporting broadcast or technical personnel (31
CFR 515.563); and
• Full-time professionals conducting professional research in their areas (provided
that the research is of a noncommercial, academic nature, that the research
comprises a full work schedule in Cuba, and that the research has a substantial
likelihood of public dissemination) or attending professional meetings or
conferences in Cuba organized by an international professional organization,
institution, or association that regularly sponsors meetings or conferences in
other countries (31 CFR 515.564).
The specific license categories include the following:
• Persons visiting a member of their immediate family (spouse, child, grandchild,
parent, grandparent, or sibling) who is a national of Cuba for a period not to
exceed 14 days and once in a three-year period (31 CFR 515.561);
• Persons visiting an immediate family member who is not a national of Cuba and
is in exigent circumstances, provided the person being visited is in Cuba pursuant
to OFAC authorization, the exigency has been reported to the U.S. Interests
Section in Havana, and the license would support the mission of the U.S.
Interests Section (31 CFR 515.561);
• Free-lance journalists (31 CFR 515.563);
• Professional researchers undertaking research or attending professional meetings
who do not qualify for a general license (31 CFR 515.564);
• Specific institutional licenses (up to one year) for students and full-time
employees of undergraduate or graduate degree-granting academic institutions to
participate in educational activities. These activities include participation in a
structured educational program in Cuba as part of a course offered at the licensed
institution (not less than 10 weeks); noncommercial academic research in Cuba
specifically related to Cuba for the purpose of obtaining a graduate degree;
participation in a formal course of study at a Cuban institution (not less than 10
weeks) provided it will be accepted for credit toward the student’s undergraduate
or graduate degree at the licensed U.S. institution; teaching at a Cuban academic
institution (not less than 10 weeks); and sponsorship of a Cuban scholar to teach
or engage in other scholarly activity at the licensed institution. (CFR 515.565);
• U.S. religious organizations, for its members undertaking religious activities in
Cuba (31 CFR 515.566); [Note: According to OFAC, specific licenses under
515.566(a), which does not limit the number of travelers or the frequency of
trips, are for smaller religious organizations, such as individual churches and
congregational units; larger religious organizations, such as national associations
of churches, may now obtain a license under 515.566(b), which, according to
revised March 2005 licensing guidelines “will only authorize up to twenty-five
(25) individuals to travel to Cuba per trip and will permit no more than one trip 1
per calendar quarter.”]
• Amateur or semi-professional athletes participating in competitions, provided
that the competition is held under the auspices of the international sports
federation for the relevant sport, that U.S. participants are selected by the U.S.
federation for the relevant sport, and that the competition is open for attendance,
and in relevant situations, for the Cuban public. Those involved in public
performances, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions, provided that the
event is open for attendance, and in relevant situations, participation by the
Cuban public, and that all profits are donated to an independent nongovernmental
organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity (31 CFR 515.567);
• Those traveling for activities in support of the Cuban people, such as activities of
recognized human rights organizations, activities designed to promote a rapid,
peaceful transition to democracy, and activities intended to strengthen civil
society (31 CFR 515.574);
• Those involved in humanitarian projects in Cuba, such as medical and health-
related projects, construction projects, intended to benefit legitimately
independent civil society groups, environmental projects, projects involving non-
1 U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, “Comprehensive Guidelines for License
Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba,” September 2004 (although the guidelines note
that these limits on religious travel were added on March 31, 2005).
formal educational training, within Cuba or off island, on topics including civil
education, journalism, advocacy and organizing, adult literacy and vocational
skills, community-based grass roots projects, projects suitable to the development
of small-scale enterprise, projects related to agricultural and rural development
that promote independent activity, and projects involving the donation of goods
to meet basic human needs (31 CFR 515.575);
• Those involved in activities of private foundations or research or education
institutes that have an established interest in international relations to collect
information related to Cuba for noncommercial purposes (31 CFR 515.576);
• Those involved in the importation, exportation, or transmission of informational
materials (31CFR 515.545); and
• Those involved in activities related to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied
delivery, or servicing of exports to Cuba authorized by the Department of
Commerce or such activities allowed by U.S.-owned or controlled foreign firms
(31CFR 515.533 and 31 CFR 515.559).
U.S. cash remittances to Cuba account for an estimated $400-$800 million per year, according to
the 2004 report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, although the report also noted 2
that some estimates were as high as $1 billion annually. According to a November 2007 GAO
report, no reliable data exist for cash remitted directly or indirectly from the United States to
Cuba although it maintained that data from several sources showed that worldwide remittances to 3
Cuba amounted to between $900 million and $1 billion.
Restrictions on such remittances are regulated by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR)
and have changed over time. Pursuant to OFAC’s June 16, 2004, amendments to the CACR, a
total of $300 per quarter may be sent to nationals of Cuba who are members of the remitter’s
immediate family (spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling) (CFR 515.570).
Remittances to certain officials of the Cuban government and certain members of the Cuban
Communist Party are not allowed. Up to $300 in remittances may be carried by an authorized
traveler to Cuba (CFR 515.560(c)(4)).
Prior to OFAC’s June 16, 2004, changes to the CACR, remittances were not restricted to
members of the remitter’s immediate family but could be sent to any household in Cuba, provided
the household did not include a senior-level Cuban government official or senior-level
Communist Party official. Authorized travelers also could carry up to $3,000 in cash remittances.
An additional tightening of remittance policy was that the general OFAC license authorizing
banks to send individual remittances to Cuba was eliminated. Banks now need to be specifically
2 Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, Report to the President, May 2004. p. 34.
3 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Economic Sanctions: Agencies Face Competing Priorities in Enforcing the
U.S. Embargo on Cuba, GAO-08-80, November 30, 2007, p. 34.
licensed by OFAC in order to become a remittance-forwarding service provider. OFAC is 4
responsible for regulating 103 licensed remittance-forwarding service providers.
There was mixed reaction to the Bush Administration’s June 2004 tightening of Cuba travel and
remittance restrictions, including within the Cuban American community. The President
maintained that such restrictions would “prevent the regime from exploiting hard currency of 5
tourists and remittances to Cubans to prop up their repressive regime.” Supporters of the
tightened restrictions argued that both educational and family travel to Cuba had become fronts
for tourist travel. Tightening up on such travel, they argued, would deny the regime with dollars
that help maintain its repressive control. (According to the Commission for Assistance for a Free
Cuba, some 125,000 family visits to Cuba in 2003 resulted in about $96 million in hard currency 6
for the government.) Another argument made by some supporters of the tightened restrictions is
that the limiting of family travel to once every three years helps ensure that such travel is limited
to family emergencies. Along these lines, some argue that limiting family travel makes travelers
more sensitive to political repression on the island and highlights that Cuban Americans are
political refugees, not economic immigrants. Some supporters of the additional remittance
restrictions argue that the Bush Administration demonstrated a continuation of the compassionate
policy of supporting the Cuban people by not cutting the level of remittances allowed, $300 per
quarter. They emphasize that the Administration only took action to ensure that the remittances
would be restricted to immediate family members and not benefit certain members of the Cuban
government and Cuban Communist Party.
Opponents of the tightened travel and remittance restrictions make a number of policy arguments.
They maintain the restrictions are anti-family and threaten the basic principle of family
reunification. Some in the Cuban American community argue that the policy of restricting family
visits is inhumane and will only result in more suffering for Cuban families. They especially
oppose the additional restrictions that do not allow travel to visit cousins, aunts, uncles, and more-
distant relatives. Another argument opposing restrictions on travel and private remittances is that
the steps will have no effect on reducing repression in Cuba or weakening the government’s
instruments of repression. Opponents of the tightened restrictions maintain that the new
restrictions are opposed by several prominent Cuban dissidents, including Oswaldo Paya of the
Varela Project and Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation. Miriam Leiva, one of the founders of the Ladies in White human rights group
maintains that the policy punishes dissidents and their families; she compared the U.S.
restrictions to the situation faced by Cubans, who cannot travel without permission from the 7
Cuban government. Former political prisoner Oscar Espinosa Chepe, released from prison in
4 U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, List of Authorized Providers of Air, Travel, and
Remittance Forwarding Services to Cuba, May 5, 2008.
5 President George W. Bush, “Remarks After Meeting with the Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba,” U.S.
Department of State, May 6, 2004.
6 Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, Report to the President, May 2004. p. 37.
7 Miriam Leiva, “Whose Country Is It, Anyway?” May 24, 2004, http://Salon.com; and “Why Deal with North Korea
and Not Cuba,” Miami Herald, March 1, 2008.
December 2004, called the U.S. policy “absurd,” maintaining that “what we need is to create 8
space for dialogue.”
There were also concerns that the new restrictions were drafted without considering the full
consequences of their implementation. For example, the elimination of the category of fully-
hosted travel raised concerns about the status some 70 U.S. students receiving full scholarships at
the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. The school has more than 3,000 students from
23 countries and consists of a six-month pre-med program and a six-year medical school
program. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who were instrumental in the
establishment of the scholarship program for U.S. students, expressed concern that the students
may be forced to abandon their medical education because of the new OFAC regulations. As a
result of these concerns, OFAC ultimately licensed the medical students in August 2004 to
continue their studies and engage in travel-related transactions.
In the aftermath of the Administration’s tightening of travel restrictions, there was increased
opposition to the policy and several groups were established opposing the Administration’s
actions. A group know as ENCASA, the Emergency Network of Cuban American Scholars and
Artists for Change in Cuba Policy, launched a media campaign in 2006 opposing the travel 9
restrictions. In June 2006, another group of some 450 scholars known as the Emergency
Coalition to Defend Educational Travel (ECDET) filed suit in U.S. federal court in Washington 10
against the Treasury Department, maintaining that travel restrictions violate academic freedom.
(On November 4, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the 11
travel restrictions do not violate the right to academic freedom.)
With regard to family travel, a group in Miami, the Association of Christian Women in Defense of 12
the Cuban Family, organized several protests against the tightened family travel restrictions. In
March 2008, Cuban Americans living in Vermont filed a complaint in U.S. federal court in
Burlington, Vermont, that U.S. restrictions on family travel to Cuba violate their civil rights.
Affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Massachusetts, and Vermont
subsequently filed a brief in support of the complaint. Human Rights Watch maintains that the
U.S. travel policies inflict harm on Cuban families and undermine the freedom of movement of 13
hundreds of thousands of Cuban Americans. In a 2005 report, Human Rights Watch cited
numerous cases of family hardships after the tightened family travel restrictions went into effect, 14
including the inability to visit children, sick or dying parents, or to attend funerals.
A 2007 Florida International University poll examining attitudes of the Cuban American
community in South Florida showed that about 64% of respondents would like to return to the
less restrictive polices on travel and remittances that were in place in 2003. Moreover, 55.2% of 15
respondents supported allowed unrestricted travel overall, not just family travel.
8 David Adams, “Dissidents Say It’s Time to Open Talks,” St Petersburg Times, December 18, 2006.
9 Oscar Corral, “Scholars, Artists Rip Embargo,” Miami Herald, April 26, 2006.
10 “Cuba’s Campus Attrition,” CQ Weekly, July 24, 2006; also see ECDET’s website available at http://www.ecdet.org/
11 Jack Chang, “Court Upholds Limits on Student Trips to Cuba,” Miami Herald, November 5, 2008.
12 Laura Morales, “Protesters Call for Family-Friendly Cuban Travel,” Miami Herald, August 27, 2006.
13 Human Rights Watch, World Report 2008, January 2008.
14 Human Rights Watch, Families Torn Apart, The High Cost of U.S. and Cuban Travel Restrictions, October 2005.
15 “2007 FIU Cuba Poll,” Institute for Public Opinion Research and Cuban Research Institute, Florida International
Estimates of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba vary considerably as reported by U.S. and Cuban
government sources. According to a November 2007 GAO report, U.S. and Cuban government
data on U.S. travel to Cuba are incomplete and cover different populations, and as a result there 16
are no reliable estimates of total U.S. travel to Cuba. Nevertheless, travel service providers
maintain that the elimination of the people-to-people trips in 2003 and significant restrictions on
family travel in 2004 have significantly reduced the number of Americans visiting Cuba.
In terms of U.S. figures, the inter-agency Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba estimated in
May 2004 that some 160,000-200,000 legal and illegal travelers visited Cuba from the United
States annually over the past decade. According to the Commission, the largest category of legal
travel consisted of Cuban Americans visiting their families, amounting to 125,000 out of a total of 17
160,000 Americans visiting Cuba in 2003. In July 2007, the U.S. International Trade
Commission (ITC) issued a report examining the effect of U.S. restrictions on travel (as well as
restrictions on U.S. agricultural sales). As a baseline, the ITC report estimated that about 171,000
American traveled to Cuba in 2005 (a figure considerably higher than Cuban government
estimates cited below). The ITC concluded that lifting travel restrictions would result in travel by 18
U.S. citizens to Cuba rising to between 550,000 and 1 million.
Cuban officials maintain that overall U.S. travel to Cuba has dropped considerably over the past
four years because of the tightening of U.S. travel restrictions, from 200,859 Americans in 2003,
to 108,172 in 2004, 101,000 in 2005 and 96,000 in 2006. This reflects a decline of over 52% in
U.S. travelers to Cuba from 2003 to 2006. Looking at the number of Cuban Americans traveling
to Cuba, the Cuban government estimates that 115,050 visited Cuba in 2003, 57,145 in 2004, 19
OFAC is responsible for regulating the activities of licensed travel and carrier service providers
(travel agencies, tour operators, and airline companies) around the country. As of January 2009,
there were about 155 licensed travel and carrier service providers, the majority of which are 20
concentrated in Florida, down from over 190 such providers in mid-2008. The licensed service
16 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Economic Sanctions: Agencies Face Competing Priorities in Enforcing the
U.S. Embargo on Cuba, GAO-08-80, November 30, 2007, p. 31.
17 Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, Report to the President, May 2004. pp. 28 and 36.
18 U.S. International Trade Commission, U.S. Agricultural Sales to Cuba: Certain Economic Effects of U.S.
Restrictions, USITC Publication 3932, July 2007. See the text of the report at
19 Vanessa Arrington, “Number of Americans Traveling to Cuba Drops Amid Tougher U.S. Stance, Cuban
Government Says,” Associated Press, September 28, 2005; Gary Marx, “Tougher U.S. Policy Curtails Aid to Cubans,”
Chicago Tribune, October 10. 2005; Vanessa Arrington, “Cuban Official: Embargo Losses Are More than $4 Billion,”
Associated Press, October 3, 2006; and information provided to CRS by the Cuba Interests Section, Washington, DC,
October 4, 2007.
20 OFAC also regulates the activities of companies that forward remittances to Cuban according to the restrictions set
forth in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. Most companies that forward remittances are also travel service
providers must keep records for each transaction, including transactions between service
providers. The record keeping must include details about individual travelers and their
circumstances sufficient to allow identification and verification that the transactions comply with
the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) implemented by OFAC. Individuals traveling to
Cuba under the authorization of OFAC must maintain records of all travel transactions for five
years [pursuant to 31 CFR Parts 501.60l and 501.602].
The CACR spells out the requirements for travel service providers (TSP) and carrier service
providers (CSP) to put procedures in place to establish that each customer is in full compliance 21
with the regulations. The regulations require such providers to demonstrate that they require
each customer to attest, in a signed statement, to his or her qualification for authorized travel. The
statement must provide facts supporting the customer’s belief that he or she qualifies for travel to
Cuba according to the categories of travel set forth in the CACR.
As part of the compliance process, licensed travel agencies must provide details about travelers to
the air carriers prior to the air carriers accepting a reservation or selling a seat on a flight. This
information consists of the passenger’s full name, mother’s maiden name, address, date of birth,
passport number and country of issuance, airport of departure from the United States, and
whether travel is under a general or specific license. The licensed air carrier in turn must provide
detailed information to OFAC in Washington by electronic mail 48 to 72 hours prior to departure
of the flight. This consists of (1) the information provided by the travel service provider (TSP) on
each authorized traveler; (2) U.S. departure and return dates; and (3) the name of the TSP who
arranged for the travel. Generally what happens is that travelers fill out a travel affidavit with the
TSP providing the information, including what type of license they are traveling under, and the
TSP then provides information to the carrier service provider before a reservation is actually
Passengers on direct flights to Cuba need to fill out an OFAC Outbound Declaration Card
(entitled Travel to Cuba). Carrier Service Providers are required to ensure that every passenger
receives one of the cards as part of the check-in procedure at the ticket counter assigned to the
charter. CSPs must collect the completed and signed cards before the passenger boards the plane,
and must make the completed cards available to the U.S. Customs Service inspector at the
departure gate for review. If no inspector is present or if the inspector returns the cards to the CSP,
then the cards must be forwarded to the OFAC-Miami office.
In January 2006, OFAC suspended a South Florida travel agency, La Estrella de Cuba, from
booking travel to Cuba. The agency reportedly was one of the largest licensed travel agencies,
booking some 300 to 500 passengers monthly to Cuba. According to a Treasury Department
spokesman, OFAC had plans to conduct 25 on-site audits in 2006 at agencies that do business 22
with Cuba. In addition to La Estrella de Cuba, OFAC suspended the service activities of several
other companies in 2006, including Baby Envios Travel, Fortuna Travel Services, Cubatur
providers. See U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, List of Authorized Providers of Air,
Travel, and Remittance Forwarding Services to Cuba, January 16, 2009.
21 31 CFR 515.572. In addition, OFAC has a circular outlining responsibilities of travel and carrier service providers
for Cuba travel. See U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Circular 2006, Travel, Carrier
and Remittance Forwarding Service Provider Program, March 2006.
22 Oscar Corral, “Cuba Travel Curtailed Further,” Miami Herald, January 27, 2006.
Express, La Perla del Caribe, Summit Jet Corporation, Adventure Tours & Travel, Art Quest
International, Super Travel Services, Caribbean Air Service, Discovery Travel, and Cuba Familia 23
Enforcement of U.S. restrictions on Cuba travel has increased considerably under the Bush
Administration. The major agencies involved in enforcing the travel restrictions include the
Treasury Department’s OFAC, which in addition to licensing travelers and licensing and
monitoring travel-service providers, also investigates suspected travel violations and imposes
civil fines; the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which
inspects passengers to and from Cuba and screens passengers on other international flights for
compliance with U.S. travel restrictions; and the Department of Justice, which prosecutes
criminal violations of the Cuba embargo.
President Bush announced in July 2001 that he had asked the Treasury Department to enhance
and expand the enforcement capabilities of the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The President
noted the importance of upholding and enforcing the law in order to prevent, among other things,
“unlicensed and excessive travel” and to ensure that humanitarian and cultural exchanges actually 24
reach pro-democracy activists in Cuba. On October 10, 2003, President Bush instructed the
Department of Homeland Security to enforce the trade and travel embargo more strictly. As a
result, the CBP’s inspections of passengers traveling to and from Cuba were stepped up.
In 2004, the Bush Administration moved to tighten enforcement of Cuba travel restrictions in
several ways. In February and March 2004, OFAC identified 11 companies in Cuba, Argentina,
the Bahamas, Canada, Chile, the Netherlands, and England (10 travel companies and one gift
forwarder), blocked their assets under U.S. jurisdiction, and prohibited any transactions with 25
these companies. On February 26, 2004, President Bush ordered the Department of Homeland
Security to expand its policing of the waters between Florida and Cuba with the objective of 26
stopping pleasure boating traffic. In early May 2004, the President endorsed the
recommendations of Commission for Assistance to Free Cuba. These included increased
inspections of travelers and shipments to Cuba and an increase in both maritime surface patrols
and air sorties in the region by law enforcement agencies in order to locate and prosecute pleasure
boaters who travel to Cuba illegally.
Beginning in 2005, the Bush Administration tightened restrictions on religious travel to Cuba, not
by making changes to the CACR, but by changing the guidelines for specific license applications
for religious travel. According to OFAC, after restrictions on family travel were tightened in June
23 Wilfredo Cancio Isla, “Aprietan las restricciones para los viajes a Cuba,” El Nuevo Herald (Miami), April 28, 2006,
and “Cierran en Miami otra agencia de viajes a Cuba,” El Nuevo Herald, June 6, 2006; U.S. Department of the
Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, List of Authorized Providers of Air, Travel, and Remittance Forwarding
Services to Cuba, November 29, 2006.
24 White House, “Statement by President Bush on Cuba: Toward a Democratic Cuba,” July 13, 2001.
25 U.S. Department of State, International Information Programs, Washington File, “Treasury Dept. Identifies 10
Entities for Cuban Embargo Violations,” February 9, 2004, and “U.S. Continues Crackdown on Illegal Travel to
Cuba,” March 18, 2004.
26 Presidential Proclamation 7757 of February 26, 2004, Federal Register, March 1, 2004, p. 9515; Carol Rosenberg,
“New Rule Restricts American Boaters from Sailing to Island,” Miami Herald, February 27, 2004.
2004, it noticed an increase in the improper use of licenses by large religious organizations, which
solicited participation in trips to Cuba beyond their own organizations. As a result, OFAC
implemented a new policy of more tightly restricting the licenses of larger national religious
organizations. Previously these organizations were licensed under Section 515.566(a) of the
CACR without restriction on the number of travelers or the frequency of trips. Under the new
policy, larger religious organizations are now required to obtain a license under the more
restrictive Section 515.566(b) of the CACR, which as of March 31, 2005, limits trips to four per
year (one per quarter), each of which are limited to 25 individuals. Smaller religious
organizations, such as individual churches and congregational units, may continue to apply for a
specific license under Section 515.566(a), which does not limit the number of travelers or trips
under the license.
More than 100 Members of Congress sent a letter to the Treasury Department in March 2006
questioning OFAC’s actions that further restricted religious travel to Cuba. Church groups such as
Church World Service, the National Council on Churches, American Baptist Churches USA, the
Alliance for Baptists, and the Presbyterian Church have expressed strong opposition to the new 27
restrictions. Visits by members of Catholics and Jewish organizations have also diminished 28
because of the tightened restrictions.
There were further indications in 2006 of the Administration’s strict enforcement of travel
restrictions. Press reports in January indicated that OFAC sent letters to some 200 travelers from
two U.S. groups—Pastors for Peace (which organizes caravans of aid from the United States to
Cuba via Mexico) and the Venceremos Brigade—both of which have long organized trips to Cuba 29
in defiance of U.S. sanctions. Moreover, as described above, OFAC suspended the licenses of
several companies providing travel and remittances services. In October 2006, the U.S.
government established an inter-agency Cuban Sanctions Enforcement Task Force, chaired by the
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, with support from the FBI, and the Treasury,
Homeland Security, and Commerce Departments. The primary goals of the task force are the
investigation of Cuba embargo violations and enforcement through federal criminal prosecutions.
Beginning in April 2003, OFAC began making available a regular listing of civil penalties
enforcement information for its sanctions programs, including violations of the Cuba travel 30
regulations. According to a Treasury Department spokesmen, the information was being made
available to make the process more transparent to the public. Under the Trading with the Enemy
Act, the Secretary of the Treasury may impose civil fines up to $55,000 per violation of the
Cuban Assets Control Regulations. According to OFAC, typical individual penalties range from 31
$3,000 to $7,500, but the majority of cases are settled for less. Penalties against companies are
generally much larger.
27 Adelle M. Banks, “Restrictions on Religious Travel to Cuba Questioned,” Religion News Service, March 7, 2006.
28 Oscar Corral, “Religious Groups Feel Cut Off from Cuba,” Miami Herald, February 14, 2007.
29 Pablo Bachelet, “U.S. Gets Tougher on Groups Defying Cuba Travel Rules,” Miami Herald, January 12. 2006;
Meghan Clyne, “Bush Enforcing Cuba Embargo in New Push,” New York Sun, January 12, 2006.
30 See OFAC’s website for information on civil enforcement actions: http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/
31 “Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Challenges for U.S. Policy Toward Cuba,” Federal News
Since April 2003, enforcement actions for the Cuba travel regulations have included penalties
against the following companies: Metso Minerals, Zim American Israeli Shipping Company,
Playboy Enterprises, Omega World Travel, Mr. Travel, Havanatur & Travel Service, American
Airlines, Cuba Paquetes, MRP Group Inc., Air Jamaica, Trek Tours (Rhode Island), Premiere
Travel of Ohio, Hialeah Gardens Immigration Agency, Only Believe Ministries (Ohio), the
Salvation Army (Texas Division), Beau Rivage Resorts Inc. (Mississippi), E & J Gallo Winery
(California), the Four Oaks Foundation (New York), Pioneer Valley Travel (Massachusetts), the
International Bicycle Fund (Washington state), Augsburg College (Minnesota), the U.S./Cuba
Labor Exchange (Michigan), Coda International Tours Inc. (Florida), Travelocity.com (Texas),
American Express Company (Mexico), Lakes Community Credit Union (Michigan), Sonida
International (New York), Journey Corporation Travel Management (New York), RMO Inc.
(Colorado), Tours International America (California), Aerovacations Inc. (California), Agoda
Company (Thailand), Center for Cross Cultural Study Inc. (Massachusetts), Priceline.com
(Connecticut), and Magic USA Tours (Florida). A number of other companies have received
penalties for violating other aspects of the Cuba embargo regulations.
In addition, the listing shows that numerous individuals have had civil penalties assessed or
reached informal settlements for alleged violations of various restrictions under the Cuban Assets
Control Regulations. Since 2004, according to the information provided on OFAC’s website,
almost 900 individuals either have been assessed a penalty or reached an informal settlement for
violations of the Cuba regulations (not just travel-related restrictions) with more than $1.1 million
in penalties. The number of individuals penalized by OFAC has fallen considerably since 2006. a.
A total of 290 individuals were penalized in 2004, 579 in 2005, 21 in 2006, and 17 in 2007. In
2008, OFAC reported that 32 individuals were penalized, with the majority for the purchase of
Cuban cigars over the Internet.
In late November 2007, the GAO issued a report on U.S. enforcement of the Cuba embargo. The
report called into question whether U.S. efforts to enforce the Cuba embargo were having a
detrimental effect on CBP’s ability to carry out its primary mission of keeping terrorists,
criminals and inadmissible aliens out of the country, and on OFAC’s ability to administer more
than 20 other sanctions programs. As such, the report recommended: 1) that the Secretary of
Homeland Security direct CBP to re-evaluate its level of resources dedicated to inspecting
passengers from Cuba at the Miami International Airport; and 2) that the Treasury Department
direct the OFAC to reassess the allocation of resources for investigating and penalizing violations
of the Cuba embargo with respect to its administration of other sanctions programs.
Service, October 2, 2003.
32 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Economic Sanctions: Agencies Face Competing Priorities in Enforcing the
U.S. Embargo on Cuba, GAO-08-80, November 30, 2007. A copy of the report is available at http://www.gao.gov/
Those who argue in favor of lifting restrictions on travel to Cuba contend that the travel ban
hinders U.S. efforts to influence political and economic conditions in Cuba. Supporters of a
change in Cuba travel policy argue that U.S. support for democracy in Latin America has been
augmented by person-to-person contact and exchanges. The exception to democracy in the region
is Cuba, where the United States continues to maintain a policy of isolation. They argue that the
best way to realize change in Cuba is to lift restrictions, allowing a flood of U.S. citizens to travel
and engage in conversations with average Cubans. They point to the influence of person-to-
person contact in Russia and Eastern European nations which they argue ultimately helped lead to
the fall of communism in the Soviet bloc. They maintain that restricting travel by ordinary
Americans prevents interaction and information exchanges with ordinary Cubans, exchanges that
can help break down the Cuban government’s tight control and manipulation of news; that the
current travel ban actually supports the Cuban government in its efforts to restrict information
provided to the Cuban people; and that it in effect supports Castro’s totalitarian control over
A second argument made by those who want to lift travel restrictions is that the ban abridges the
rights of ordinary Americans to travel. They argue that the U.S. government should not be
requiring Cuban Americans to apply for a license to travel more than once a year to visit sick or
dying family members. They contend that such restrictions on the right to travel subvert the first
amendment right of free speech.
Those in favor of lifting the travel ban also argue that U.S. citizens can travel to other communist
or authoritarian governments around the world, such as the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam,
Burma, and Iran. They point out that Americans could travel to the Soviet Union before its
breakup. Supporters of changing travel policy toward Cuba argue that their proposals would still
allow the President to prohibit such travel in times of war or armed hostilities, or if there were
imminent danger to the health or safety of Americans. They argue that these conditions do not
exist with regard to Cuba, and point to a May 1998 Defense Intelligence Agency report that
concluded that “Cuba does not pose a significant military threat to the U.S. or to other countries 33
in the region.”
Those arguing for lifting travel restrictions also point to human rights activists in Cuba who
themselves argue for the lifting of such sanctions. According to the prominent Cuban human
rights activist Elizardo Sanchez: “The more Americans on the streets of Cuban cities, the better 34
for the cause of a more open society in Cuba.”
Supporters of lifting the travel ban maintain that such a move would not lift the underlying U.S.
embargo on trade and financial transactions with Cuba. They point to the 1977-82 period when
the travel ban was essentially lifted, but the overall embargo remained in place.
Finally, some supporters of lifting the travel restrictions argue that the U.S. economy would
benefit from increased demand for air and cruise travel, which reportedly would expand U.S.
economic output. According to a report prepared for the Center for International Policy, a policy
33 Defense Intelligence Agency. Report on Cuban Threat to U.S. National Security. May 6, 1998.
34 Congressional Record, July 25, 2001, p. H4599.
group that advocates lifting the embargo, U.S. economic output would expand by $1.18-$1.61 35
billion, with the creation of between 16,888 and 23,020 jobs if travel restrictions were lifted.
Those favoring the continuation of current restrictions on travel to Cuba point out that there are
already significant provisions in U.S. law permitting Americans to travel there for legitimate
reasons that support the Cuban people and not the Cuban government. They point out that
thousands of Americans travel to Cuba legally under the various provisions of the Cuban embargo
regulations, many of whom are Cuban Americans visiting family members. Other categories of
travel allowed include students, journalists, researchers, artists, musicians, and athletes.
A second argument made for maintaining current restrictions on travel to Cuba is that lifting the
travel ban entirely will open the floodgates to American tourist travel that will support Castro’s
rule by providing his government with millions in tourist receipts. Advocates of restricting travel
oppose any loosening that could prolong the Castro regime by propping it up with increased
income. In contrast to those supporting tourist travel, they believe that continued travel
restrictions will help influence Cuba’s policy. They argue that since the collapse of the Soviet
Union and the loss of Soviet subsidies to Cuba, the travel and embargo regulations have
contributed to Castro’s decision to cut the military’s size and budget by half since 1989 and to
introduce limited economic reforms. Lifting travel restrictions, they argue, would eliminate the
U.S. leverage on Cuba to enact further reforms.
Those favoring the maintenance of current travel restrictions argue that the reality of the human
rights situation dispels the notion that American tourists would be engaging in exchanges with
ordinary Cubans. They maintain that the thousands of European, Canadian, and other tourists who
travel to Cuba each year largely stay in tourist hotels that are off limits to most Cubans and thus
have no discernable effect on the human rights situation in Cuba.
Some opposed to lifting travel restrictions argue that there should be tourist travel as long as Cuba
provides refuge to violent criminals who have escaped U.S. justice. The State Department
maintains that more than 70 fugitives from U.S. justice are hiding out in Cuba, including
convicted murderer Joanne Chesimard, who killed a New Jersey state trooper in 1973.
Finally, many opponents of legislation to lift the Cuba travel restrictions argue that the authority
to impose such restrictions is an important foreign policy tool for the President. They point out
that the President has the authority to restrict travel when it is in the national security or foreign
policy interests of the United States, and has utilized that policy tool when needed. They point to
past instances of restricting travel to Libya, Vietnam, and North Korea. With regard to Cuba, they
point to the 1984 Supreme Court decision in the case of Regan v. Wald that upheld restrictions on
travel to Cuba imposed by the Reagan Administration.
35 The Impact on the U.S. Economy of Lifting Restrictions on Travel to Cuba, The Brattle Group, Washington, D.C.
Prepared by Dorothy Robyn, James D. Reitzes, and Bryan Church. July 15, 2002.
To date in the 111th Congress, two bills have been introduced that would ease restrictions on
travel to Cuba. H.R. 332 (Lee) would provide that no funds made available to the Department of
the Treasury may be used to implement, administer, or enforce regulations to require specific
licenses for travel-related transactions directly related to educational activities in Cuba. H.R. 188
(Serrano), a bill that would lift the overall embargo on trade and financial transactions with Cuba,
includes the lifting of restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba.
In the 110th Congress, several House and Senate committee versions of appropriations bills had
provisions that would have eased restrictions on travel to Cuba in various ways, but none of these
provisions were included in final enacted legislation. Numerous other bills were introduced that
would have eased restrictions on travel and remittance in various ways, but no action was taken
on these measures.
In the first session of the 110th Congress, two Senate Appropriations Committee reported-versions
of appropriations bills had provisions that would have eased restrictions on travel to Cuba for the
marketing and sale of agricultural and medical goods, but ultimately these provisions were not
included in the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161). The Senate version of
the FY2008 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, reported July 19,
2007, H.R. 2829, had a provision in Section 620 that would eased such travel restrictions, while
the Senate version of the FY2008 Agriculture appropriations bill, S. 1859, reported July 24, 2007,
had such a provision in Section741.
In the second session, several versions of House and Senate appropriations bills had provisions
easing Cuba travel restrictions and other Cuba sanctions, but none of these were included in the
FY2009 continuing resolution. The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the
Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill for FY2009 on June 25, 2008,
which contained provisions in Title VI that would have eased restrictions on the sale of U.S.
agricultural exports to Cuba and on family travel to Cuba. The committee ultimately introduced
and reported the bill, H.R. 7323, on December 10, 2008 (H.Rept. 110-920). With regard to family
travel, Section 622 would have allowed for such travel once a year (instead of the current
restriction of once every three years), while Section 623 would have expanded such travel by a
person to visit an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or first cousin (instead of the current restriction
limiting such travel to visit a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling).
On July 14, 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the FY2009
Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, S. 3260 (S.Rept. 110-417),
which included provisions easing restrictions on family travel and on travel to Cuba relating to
the commercial sale of agricultural and medical goods. With regard to family travel, Section 620
would have provided that no funds could be used to administer, implement, or enforce the
Administration’s June 2004 tightening of restrictions related to travel to visit relatives in Cuba.
With regard to travel for agricultural or medical sales, Section 619 would have allowed for a
general license for such travel instead of a specific license that requires permission from the
On July 21, 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the FY2009
Agriculture Appropriations bill, S. 3289 (S.Rept. 110-426), with a provision in Section 737 that
would have eased restrictions on travel to Cuba for the sale of agricultural and medical goods.
The provision would have allowed for a general license for such travel instead of a specific
license that requires permission from the Treasury Department. The measure had been approved
by the Committee on July 17, 2008.
A number of other initiatives introduced in the 110th Congress would have eased Cuba travel
restrictions. H.R. 654 (Rangel), S. 721 (Enzi), and Section 254 of S. 554 (Dorgan) would prohibit
the President from regulating or prohibiting travel to Cuba or any of the transactions incident to
travel. Two bills that would lift overall economic sanctions—H.R. 217 (Serrano) and H.R. 624
(Rangel)—would also lift travel restrictions. H.R. 177 (Lee) would ease restrictions on
educational travel to Cuba. H.R. 757 (Delahunt) would lift restrictions on family travel and the
provision of remittances for family members in Cuba. H.R. 1026 (Moran, Jerry), which would
facilitate the sale of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba, includes a provision that would provide
for general license authority for travel-related transactions for people involved in agricultural
sales and marketing activities or in the transportation of such sales. H.R. 2819 (Rangel) and S.
would also lift restrictions on travel to Cuba. The Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on
S. 1673 on December 11, 2007.
In the aftermath of the Hurricanes Gustav and Ike that struck Cuba in late August and early
September 2008, several legislative initiatives were introduced that would have temporarily eased
U.S. embargo restrictions in several areas, including restrictions on family travel, remittances, the
provision of gift parcels, and the sale of relief supplies to Cuba. On September 15, 2008, Senator
Dodd offered S.Amdt. 5581 to the Department of Defense authorization bill (S. 3001) that would
have, for a 180-day period: allowed unrestricted family travel; eased restrictions on remittances
by removing the limit and allowing any American to send remittances to Cuba; expanded the list
of allowable items that may be included in gift parcels; and allowed for unrestricted U.S. cash
sales of food, medicines, and relief supplies to Cuba. The amendment was not considered, and
therefore not part of the final bill.
In the House, two legislative initiatives were introduced in the aftermath of the hurricanes that
would have temporarily eased restrictions in various ways. On September 16, 2008,
Representative Flake introduced H.R. 6913, which would have prohibited any funds from going
to the Department of Commerce to implement, administer, or enforce tightened restrictions on the
contents of gift parcels to Cuba that were introduced in June 2004. On September 18, 2008,
Representative Delahunt introduced H.R. 6962, the Humanitarian Relief to Cuba Act, which
would have, for a 180-day period: allowed unrestricted family travel; eased restrictions on
remittances by removing the limit and allowing any American to send remittances to Cuba; and
expanded the list of allowable items that may be included in gift parcels.
In the 109th Congress, several amendments to FY2006 and FY2007 appropriations bills that
would have eased Cuba travel restrictions in various ways and restrictions on sending gift parcels
to Cuba were defeated. Several bills were introduced that would have lifted or eased restrictions
on travel and the provision of remittances to Cuba, but no action was taken on these measures.
On June 30, 2005, the House rejected three amendments easing Cuba sanctions to H.R. 3058, the
FY2006 Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Judiciary, District of
Columbia, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendments failed during House
floor consideration: H.Amdt. 420 (Davis) on family travel, by a vote of 208-211; H.Amdt. 422
(Lee) on educational travel, by a vote of 187-233; and H.Amdt. 424 (Rangel) on the overall
embargo, by a vote of 169-250. An additional amendment on religious travel, H.Amdt. 421
(Flake), was withdrawn, and an amendment on family travel by members of the U.S. military,
H.Amdt. 419 (Flake), was ruled out of order for constituting legislation in an appropriations bill.
The introduction of H.Amdt. 419 was prompted by the case of a U.S. military member who
served in Iraq, Sgt. Carlos Lazo, who was prohibited from visiting his two sons in Cuba because
he last visited there in 2003.
During June 29, 2005, Senate consideration of H.R. 2361, the FY2006 Interior, Environment, and
Related Agencies Appropriations Act, the Senate rejected (60-35; a two-thirds majority vote was
required) a motion to suspend the rules with respect to S.Amdt. 1059 (Dorgan), which would
have allowed travel to Cuba under a general license for the purpose of visiting a member of the
person’s immediate family for humanitarian reasons. The amendment was then ruled out of order.
Its introduction had also been prompted by the case of Sgt. Carlos Lazo who wants to visit his
sons in Cuba, one of whom was gravely sick.
On June 15, 2005, the House rejected (210-216) H.Amdt. 270 (Flake) to H.R. 2862, the FY2006
Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment
would have prohibited the use of funds to implement, administer, or enforce June 2004 tightened
restrictions on sending gift parcels to Cuba. H.Amdt. 269 (McDermott), which would have
prohibited the use of funds in the bill to prosecute any individual for travel to Cuba, was offered
but subsequently withdrawn.
During April 6, 2005, Senate floor consideration of the FY2006 and FY2007 Foreign Affairs
Authorization Act, S. 600, the Senate considered S.Amdt. 281 (Baucus) and a second-degree
amendment, S.Amdt. 282 (Craig) that would have facilitated the sale of U.S. agricultural products
to Cuba. The language of the amendments consisted of the provisions of S. 328 (Craig), the
Agricultural Export Facilitation Act of 2005, which included a provision for a general license for
travel transactions related to the marketing and sale of agricultural products, as opposed to the
current requirement of a specific license for such travel transactions. Neither action on the
amendments nor on S. 600 was completed.
On June 14, 2006, the House rejected two amendments to the FY2007 Transportation/Treasury
appropriation bill, H.R. 5576, that would have eased Cuba travel restrictions. H.Amdt. 1050
(Rangel), rejected by a vote of 183-245, would have prohibited funds from being used to
implement the overall economic embargo of Cuba. H.Amdt. 1051 (Lee), rejected by a vote of
187-236, would have prohibited funds from being used to implement the Administration’s June
H.Amdt. 1032 (Flake), would have prohibited the use of funds to amend regulations relating to
travel for religious activities in Cuba; it was withdrawn from consideration.
In other action, on June 22, 2006, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the
FY2007 Agriculture appropriations bill, H.R. 5384 (S.Rept. 109-266), which contained a
provision (Section 755) liberalizing travel to Cuba related to the sale of agricultural and medical
goods. The provision would have provided for such travel under a general license, instead of
under a specific license as currently allowed, issued on a case-by-case basis by the Treasury th
Department. Final action on the appropriations measure was not completed by the end of the 109
Congress. Similar Senate provisions in FY2004 and FY2005 agricultural appropriations bills
were stripped out of the final enacted measures.
A number of other legislative initiatives were introduced in the 109th Congress that would have
eased restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. Two bills—S. 894 (Enzi) and H.R. 1814
(Flake)—would have specifically lifted overall restrictions on travel to Cuba. H.R. 2617 (Davis)
would have prohibited any additional restrictions on per diem allowances, family visits to Cuba,
remittances, and accompanied baggage beyond those that were in effect on June 15, 2004. H.R.
3064 (Lee) would have prohibited the use of funds available to the Department of the Treasury to
implement regulations from June 2004 that tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba for
educational activities. H.Con.Res. 206 (Serrano), introduced in the aftermath of Hurricane Dennis
that struck Cuba in July 2005 (causing 16 deaths and significant damage), would have expressed
the sense of Congress that the President should temporarily suspend restrictions on remittances,
gift parcels, and family travel to Cuba to allow Cuban-Americans to assist their relatives.
Two bills—H.R. 208 (Serrano) and H.R. 579 (Paul)—would have lifted the overall embargo on
trade and financial transactions with Cuba, including restrictions on travel and remittances to
Finally, two identical bills dealing with easing restrictions on exporting agricultural commodities
to Cuba—H.R. 719 (Moran of Kansas) and S. 328 (Craig)—included provisions that would have
provided for a general license for travel transactions related to the marketing and sale of
agricultural products, as opposed to the current requirement of a specific license for such travel
In the 108th Congress, several FY2004 and FY2005 appropriations bills had provisions that would
have eased Cuba travel restrictions in various ways, but ultimately these provisions were not
included in final appropriations measures. The Administration had threatened to veto legislation if th
it contained provisions weakening Cuba sanctions. In addition, several bills in the 108 Congress
were introduced that specifically would have lifted or eased restrictions on travel to Cuba, but no
action was taken on these measures.
Since action on FY2003 Treasury Department appropriations was not completed before the end of thth
the 107 Congress, the 108 Congress faced early action on it and other unfinished FY2003
appropriations measures. The final version of the FY2003 omnibus appropriations measure,
H.J.Res. 2 (P.L. 108-7), which included Treasury Department appropriations, did not include
provisions affecting restrictions on travel to Cuba. The White House had threatened to veto the
measure if it contained provisions weakening the embargo. While the Senate version did not th
include the Senate Appropriations Committee provision from the 107 Congress that would have
eased travel restrictions by prohibiting any funding for enforcing the Cuba travel regulations, it
did include a provision (contained in Division J, Section 124) that would have expedited action
on travel applications for travel by OFAC within 90 days of receipt. Ultimately, however, the
Senate provision was dropped in the conference report (H.Rept. 108-10) on the omnibus measure.
Both the House and Senate versions of the FY2004 Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill,
H.R. 2989, had nearly identical provisions that would have prevented funds from being used to
administer or enforce restrictions on travel or travel-related transactions. But the provisions were
dropped in the conference report to the FY2004 Consolidated Appropriations Act, P.L. 108-199
(H.R. 2673, H.Rept. 108-401, filed November 25, 2003), which incorporated seven regular
appropriations acts, including Transportation-Treasury appropriations. The conference also
dropped two Cuba provisions from the House version of H.R. 2989 that would have eased
restrictions on remittances and on people-to-people educational exchanges. The White House
again threatened to veto any legislation that would weaken economic sanctions against Cuba.
The House provisions had been approved during September 9, 2003, House floor consideration of
the H.R. 2989: H.Amdt. 375 (Flake), approved by a vote of 227-188, would have prevented funds
from enforcing travel restrictions (Section 745 of the House version); H.Amdt. 377 (Delahunt),
approved by a vote of 222-196, would have prevented funds from enforcing restrictions on
remittances (Section 746); and H.Amdt. 382 (Davis), approved by a vote of 246-173, would have
prohibited funds from being used to eliminate the travel category of people-to-people educational
exchanges (Section 749).
During Senate floor consideration of H.R. 2989 on October 23, 2003, the Senate approved by
voice vote S.Amdt. 1900 (Dorgan), nearly identical to the Flake amendment noted above that
would have prevented funds from being used to administer or enforce restrictions on travel or
travel-related transactions (Section 643 of the Senate version). A motion to table the Dorgan
36 For a complete listing and discussion of all Cuba bills in the 108th Congress, see CRS Report RL31740, Cuba: Issues
for the 108th Congress, by Mark P. Sullivan.
amendment was defeated by a vote of 59-36. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 91-3. The
only difference between the Senate and House language was that the Dorgan amendment, as
amended by S.Amdt. 1901 (Craig), provided that the section would take effect one day after
enactment of the bill.
In other action, the conference on the FY2004 Consolidated Appropriations Act, P.L. 108-199
(H.R. 2673), also dropped a provision in the Senate version of the FY2004 agriculture
appropriations bill that would have allowed travel to Cuba under a general license for travel
related to the sale of agricultural and medical goods. On July 17, 2003, the Senate Appropriations
Committee approved its version of the FY2004 agriculture appropriations bill, S. 1427, that
included a provision (Section 760) allowing travel to Cuba under a general license (which does
not require applying to the Treasury Department) for travel related to the commercial sale of
agricultural and medical goods. The Senate included this provision when it approved H.R. 2673
on November 6, 2003. The House-passed version of the bill, H.R. 2673, had no such provision.
At present, such travel to Cuba is allowed with OFAC’s approval of a specific license. In early
June 2003, the Treasury Department rejected an application to travel to Cuba for organizers of a 37
second U.S. food and agribusiness fair in Havana. The first such trade fair, held in September
agricultural sales to Cuba.
Several FY2005 appropriations measures had provisions that would have eased Cuba sanctions,
but these were dropped in the FY2005 omnibus appropriations measure (H.R. 4818, H.Rept. 108-
The House-passed version of the FY2005 Commerce, Justice, and State appropriations bill, H.R.
4754, approved July 8, 2004 (397-18), included a provision (Section 801) that would have
prohibited funds from being used to implement, administer, or enforce recent amendments to the
Cuba embargo regulations that tightened restrictions on gift parcels and baggage taken by
individuals for travel to Cuba. The provision was added by a Flake amendment, H.Amdt. 647,
approved by a vote of 221-194 on July 7, 2004. The Senate version of the bill, S. 2809, as
reported out of committee, did not include such a provision.
Both the House-approved version of the FY2005 Transportation/Treasury appropriations bill,
H.R. 5025, and the Senate Appropriations Committee version of the bill, S. 2806, had provisions
that would have eased Cuba sanctions in various ways. In its statement of policy on H.R. 5025,
the Administration indicated that the President would veto the measure if it contained provisions
weakening Cuba sanctions.
The House-passed version of H.R. 5025 had three provisions that would have eased Cuba
sanctions. During floor consideration on September 21, 2004, by a vote of 225-174, the House
approved a Davis (of Florida) amendment (H.Amdt. 769), which provided that no funds could be
used to administer, implement, or enforce the Bush Administration’s June 2004 tightening of
restrictions on visiting relatives in Cuba. On September 22, 2004, the House approved two
37 Nancy San Martin, “U.S. Pulls Plug on Cuba Expo,” Miami Herald, June 18, 2003.
38 Nancy San Martin, “U.S. Official Dampens Trade-Show Enthusiasm with Talks of Cuban Credit,” Miami Herald,
September 29, 2002.
additional Cuba amendments by voice vote, a Waters amendment (H.Amdt. 770) that would have
prohibited funds from being used to implement any sanction imposed on private commercial sales
of agricultural commodities or medicine or medical supplies to Cuba and a Lee amendment
(H.Amdt. 771) that would have prohibited funds from being used to implement, administer, or
enforce the Bush Administration’s June 2004 tightening of restrictions on travel for educational
activities. The House also rejected a Rangel amendment (H.Amdt. 772) on September 22, 2004,
by a vote of 225-188 that would have more broadly prohibited funds from being used to
implement, administer, or enforce the economic embargo of Cuba. During September 15, 2004
House floor consideration of H.R. 5025, Representative Jeff Flake announced his intention not to
offer an amendment, as he had for the past three years, that would have prohibited funds from
being used to administer or enforce restrictions on travel or travel-related transactions.
The Senate version of the FY2005 Transportation/Treasury appropriations bill, S. 2806, as
reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee (S.Rept. 108-342) on September 15, 2004,
had a provision (Section 222) that would have prohibited funds from administering or enforcing
restrictions on Cuba travel or travel-related transactions. That provision, which was proposed by
Senator Byron Dorgan, was unanimously approved by the Subcommittee on Transportation,
Treasury, and General Government on September 9, 2004.
The Senate version of the FY2005 Agriculture Appropriation bill, S. 2803, as reported by the
Senate Appropriations Committee (S.Rept. 108-340), had a provision (Section 776) that would
have directed the Secretary of the Treasury to promulgate regulations allowing for travel to Cuba
under a “general license” when it was related to the commercial sale of agricultural and medical
products. The House-passed version of the bill, H.R. 4766, had no such provision. In its statement
of policy on the bill, the Administration stated that the President would veto the measure if it
contained a provision weakening Cuba sanctions.
Among other initiatives introduced in the 108th Congress, but not acted upon, two bills would
specifically have lifted restrictions on travel to Cuba: S. 950 (Enzi), introduced April 30, 2003,
and H.R. 2071 (Flake), introduced May 13, 2003. H.R. 3422 (Serrano), introduced October 30,
2003, would, among other provisions, have lifted restrictions on travel to Cuba. Three broad
legislative initiatives were introduced that would have lifted all Cuba embargo restrictions,
including those on travel: H.R. 188 (Serrano), introduced January 7, 2003, S. 403 (Baucus),
introduced February 13, 2003, and H.R. 1698 (Paul), introduced April 9, 2003. Another initiative,
S. 2449 (Baucus)/H.R. 4457 (Otter), introduced respectively on May 19 and 20, 2004, would
have required yearly congressional approval for the renewal of trade and travel restrictions with
respect to Cuba. Finally, H.R. 4678 (Davis of Florida), introduced June 24, 2004, in the aftermath
of the President’s tightening of Cuba sanctions, would have barred certain additional restrictions
on travel and remittances to Cuba.
In the 107th Congress, although various measures were introduced that would have eliminated or
eased restrictions on travel to Cuba and the House voted in both the first and second sessions to
prohibit spending to administer the travel regulations, no legislative action was completed by the
end of the second session.
During July 25, 2001 floor action on H.R. 2590, the FY2002 Treasury Department appropriations
bill, the House approved an amendment that would prohibit spending for administering Treasury
Department regulations restricting travel to Cuba. H.Amdt. 241, offered by Representative Flake
(which amended H.Amdt. 240 offered by Representative Smith), would prohibit funding to
administer the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (administered by OFAC) with respect to any
travel or travel-related transaction. The amendment was approved by a vote of 240 to 186,
compared to a vote of 232-186 for a similar amendment in last year’s Treasury Department
The Senate version of H.R. 2590, approved September 19, 2001, did not include any provision
regarding U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba, and the provision was not included in the House-
Senate conference on the bill (H.Rept. 107-253). During Senate floor debate, Senator Byron
Dorgan noted that he had intended to offer an amendment on the issue, but that he decided not to
because he did not want to slow passage of the bill. He indicated that he would support the House
provision during conference, but ultimately, however, the House-Senate conference report on the
bill did not include the Cuba provision. In light of the changed congressional priorities in the
aftermath of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, conference negotiators
reportedly did not want to slow passage of the bill with any controversial provisions. The Bush
Administration had threatened to veto the Treasury bill if it included the Cuba travel provision.
The Cuba travel issue received further consideration in the second session of the 107th Congress.
A bipartisan House Cuba working group of 40 Representatives vowed as one of its goals to work
for a lifting of travel restrictions. On February 11, 2002, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s
Subcommittee on Treasury and General Government held a hearing on the issue, featuring
Administration and outside witnesses.
The travel issue was part of debate during consideration of the FY2003 Treasury Department
appropriations bill (H.R. 5120 and S. 2740). Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of the
Treasury Paul O’Neill said they would recommend that the President veto legislation that
includes a loosening of restrictions on travel to Cuba (or a weakening of restrictions on private 40
financing for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba). The White House also stated that President 41
Bush would veto such legislation.
39 For a complete listing and discussion of all Cuba bills in the 107th Congress, see CRS Report RL30806, Cuba: Issues
for the 107th Congress, by Mark P. Sullivan and Maureen Taft-Morales.
40 U.S. Department of State, International Information Programs, Washington File, “Bush Administration Opposes
In July 23, 2002 floor action on H.R. 5120, the House approved three Cuba sanctions
amendments, including one on the easing of travel restrictions offered by Representative Jeff
Flake. The House approved the Flake travel amendment (H.Amdt. 552), by a vote of 262-167,
that would provide that no funds could be used to administer or enforce the Treasury Department
regulations with respect to travel to Cuba. The Flake amendment would not prevent the issuance
of general or specific licenses for travel to Cuba. Some observers raised the question of whether
the effect of this amendment would be limited since the underlying embargo regulations
restricting travel would remain unchanged; enforcement action against violations of the relevant
embargo regulations could potentially take place in future years when the Treasury Department
appropriations measure did not include the funding limitations on enforcing the travel 42
During consideration of H.R. 5120, the House also rejected two Cuba amendments. A Rangel
amendment (H.Amdt. 555), rejected by a vote of 204-226, would have prevented any funds in the
bill from being used to implement, administer, or enforce the overall economic embargo of Cuba,
which includes travel. A Goss amendment (H.Amdt. 551), rejected by a vote of 182-247, would
have provided that any limitation on the use of funds to administer or enforce regulations
restricting travel to Cuba or travel-related transactions would only apply after the President
certified to Congress that certain conditions were met regarding biological weapons and 43
terrorism. The rule for the bill’s consideration, H.Res. 488 (H.Rept. 107-585), had provided that
the Goss amendment would not be subject to amendment.
The House subsequently passed H.R. 5120 on July 24, 2002, by a vote of 308-121, with the three
Cuba amendments, including the Flake Cuba travel amendment.
The Senate version of the Treasury Department appropriations measure, S. 2740, as reported by
the Senate Committee on Appropriations on July 17, 2002 (S.Rept. 107-212), included a
provision, in Section 516, that was similar, although not identical, to the Flake amendment
described above. It provided that no funds may be used to enforce the Treasury Department
regulations with respect to any travel or travel-related transactions, but would not prevent OFAC
from issuing general and specific licenses for travel to Cuba. In addition, Section 124 of the
Senate bill stipulated that no Treasury Department funds for “Departmental Offices, Salaries, and
Expenses” may be used by OFAC, until OFAC has certain procedures in place to expedite license
applications for travel to Cuba.
Congress did not complete action on the FY2003 Treasury Department appropriations measure thth
before the end of the 107 Congress, so action was deferred until the 108 Congress.
Legislative Efforts to Amend Cuba Policy,” July 16, 2002.
41 White House, Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, July 24, 2002.
42 “House Approves Limits on Treasury Enforcement of Cuba Embargo,” Inside U.S. Trade, July 26, 2002.
43 For further information on the issues of biological weapons and terrorism as they relate to Cuba, see CRS Report
RL30806, Cuba: Issues for the 107th Congress, by Mark P. Sullivan and Maureen Taft-Morales.
Several other initiatives were introduced in the 107th Congress that would have eased U.S.
restrictions on travel to Cuba, but no action was taken on these measures.
• H.R. 5022 (Flake), introduced June 26, 2002, would have lifted all restrictions on
travel to Cuba.
• Several broad bills would have lifted all sanctions on trade, financial
transactions, and travel to Cuba: H.R. 174 (Serrano), the Cuban Reconciliation
Act, introduced January 3, 2001, and identical bills S. 400 (Baucus) and H.R. 798
(Rangel), the Free Trade with Cuba Act, introduced February 27 and 28, 2001,
• S. 1017 (Dodd) and H.R. 2138 (Serrano), the Bridges to the Cuban People Act of
2001, introduced June 12, 2001, would, among other provisions, have removed
all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. nationals or lawful permanent resident
• Several bills would, among other provisions, have repealed the travel restrictions th
imposed in the 106 Congress by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export
Enhancement Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-387, Title IX, Section 910). These include
identical bills S. 402 (Baucus) and H.R. 797 (Rangel), the Cuban Humanitarian
Trade Act of 2001, introduced February 27 and 28, 2001; S. 171 (Dorgan),
introduced January 24, 2001; and S. 239 (Hagel), the Cuba Food and Medicine
Access Act of 2001, introduced February 1, 2001.
The only action completed by the 106th Congress relating to Cuba travel involved a tightening of
travel restrictions. The final version of the FY2001 agriculture appropriations measure (P.L. 106-
387, Title IX, Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000) included a
provision that restricts travel to Cuba to those categories of non-tourist travel already allowed by
the Treasury Department regulations. Section 910 of the law provides that neither general nor
specific licenses for travel to Cuba can be provided for activities that do not fit into the 12
categories expressly authorized in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, Section 515.560 (a) of
Title 31, CFR, paragraphs (1) through (12).
As noted in the law, the Secretary of the Treasury may not authorize travel-related transactions
“for travel to, from, or within Cuba for “tourist activities,” which are defined as any activity that
is not expressly authorized in the 12 categories of the regulations. The provision prevents the
Administration from loosening the travel restrictions to allow tourist travel. This, in effect,
strengthens restrictions on travel to Cuba and somewhat circumscribes the authority of OFAC to
issue specific travel licenses on a case-by-case basis under Section 515.560 (b) of Title 31, CFR.
OFAC in the past has utilized that section to provide specific licenses for activities that do not fit
neatly within the categories of travel set forth in 515.560 (a), including such travel for medical
evacuations of Americans legally in Cuba and for U.S. contractors servicing the needs of the U.S.
Interests Section. (Regulations implementing the provision of the law were issued by OFAC on
July 12, 2001.)
In other legislative action, the Senate considered the issue of travel to Cuba in June 30, 1999 floor
action on the FY2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, S. 1234. An amendment was
introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd that would have terminated regulations or prohibitions 44
on travel to Cuba and on transactions related to such travel in most instances. The Senate
defeated the amendment by tabling it in a 55-43 vote on June 30, 1999. On November 10, 1999,
Senator Dodd introduced identical language as S. 1919, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of
The House took up the issue of travel to Cuba when it considered H.R. 4871, the Treasury
Department appropriations bill, on July 20, 2000. A Sanford amendment was approved (232-186)
to prohibit funds in the bill from being used to administer or enforce the Cuban Assets Control
Regulations with respect to any travel or travel-related transaction. Subsequently, the language of
the amendment was dropped from a new version of the FY2001 Treasury Department
appropriations bill, H.R. 4985, introduced on July 26. H.R. 4985 was appended to the conference
report on the Legislative Branch appropriations bill—H.R. 4516, H.Rept. 106-796—in an attempt
to bypass Senate debate on its version of the Treasury appropriations bill, S. 2900. The Senate
initially rejected this conference report on September 20, 2000, by a vote of 28-69, but later
agreed to the report, 58-37, on October 12. The House had agreed to the conference report earlier,
on September 14, 2000, by a vote of 212-209.
Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs
44 The Dodd amendment allowed for travel restrictions to be imposed if the United States is at war with Cuba, if armed
hostilities are in progress, or when threats to physical safety or public health exist. Under current law, the Secretary of
State has the same authority to restrict travel (22 USC 211a).