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US Relaxation Measures March 2016

On 16 March 2016 the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) amendments of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) came into effect, along with the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) amendments to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

These amendments are designed to make it easier for US citizens to travel to Cuba and interact with Cuban nationals, to relax certain restrictions on banking transactions involving Cuban nationals or financial institutions, and to reduce some restrictions on the carriage of cargo to Cuba and the import into the US / consumption by US persons of certain goods from Cuba.

The key amendments are as follows:

Financial / Trade:

- US banks may process ‘U-turn’ transactions in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest, where the transaction starts outside the US, passes through US financial institution(s), and returns outside the US – as long as the originator and beneficiary of the transaction are not subject to US jurisdiction.
- US banks may accept and process US$ monetary instruments presented for payment / processing indirectly by a Cuban financial institution through a third country bank.
- The import of Cuban-origin software is now permitted.
- A physical or business presence in Cuba (such as an office or warehouse) may be permitted for US persons or entities engaging in non-commercial, humanitarian, research or educational activities, where those activities are CACR approved.
- Persons subject to US jurisdiction may establish business in Cuba, where that business involves export/re-export of goods to Cuba, mail, parcel or cargo transportation services, or travel / carrier services, provided any of the above business has been authorised by CACR or is otherwise CACR exempt.
- Vessels carrying cargo from the US bound for countries other than Cuba may stop briefly in Cuba without obtaining a license from the BIS for that cargo to move through Cuba, as long as the cargo leaves on the same vessel, does not enter the Cuban economy, and is not moved to another vessel while in Cuba.
- There will be a case by case consideration of license applications to export/re-export items that would enable / facilitate the export from Cuba of Cuban private sector produce.


Travel and physical presence:

- US individuals may travel to Cuba to participate in full-time educational exchange activities that promote contact with Cuban people, civil society in Cuba, or Cubans’ independence from Cuban authorities. Existing prohibitions on tourist travel remain in force.
- Non-immigrant Cubans legally present in the US may receive salaries or other compensation beyond living expenses, provided they are not subject to any special tax assessments in Cuba. In addition, US companies may be permitted involvement in the hiring / sponsorship of Cuban nationals to work in the US, provided no additional related payments are made to the Cuban government.
- Persons subject to US jurisdiction but who are in a third country may obtain for their personal consumption goods originating in Cuba, or services incidental to travel provided by Cuba or a Cuban national.

Copies of the OFAC press release concerning these amendments, and the full texts of the CACR and EAR amendments, can be found in the links set out below:


OFAC Press Release

CACR Amendments

EAR Amendments