Administration announces new regulations for Cuba travel, trade

Jan 15, 2015 10:51 AM by News Staff

The administration announced new regulations on travel to and trade with Cuba Thursday, formalizing President Obama's move to normalize relations with Cuba.

Mr. Obama announced last month that the U.S. would begin to thaw a 50-year diplomatic freeze with the island nation that began during the Cold War.

The new measures will allow travel to Cuba for certain purposes, increase the amount of money people in the United States can send to Cuba, allow U.S. financial institutions to open accounts with Cuban financial institutions, facilitate the use of credit cards for Americans traveling there, allow limited importation of Cuban goods and more.

"These changes will immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy, and help facilitate our growing relationship with the Cuban people. We firmly believe that allowing increased travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba will allow the United States to better advance our interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. "The policy of the past has not worked for over 50 years, and we believe that the best way to support our interests and our values is through openness rather than isolation. The United States remains committed to our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a more prosperous Cuba that respects the universal rights of all its citizens."

It is not a full restoration of trade and travel, which would require Congress to roll back legislation formalizing the embargo and travel restrictions. Additionally, Mr. Obama's plans to open an embassy in Cuba could be hampered by deep objections to the new policy from certain members of Congress.

The changes will take effect Friday when the regulations are published in the federal register.

Travel to Cuba will still be limited to 12 existing categories, including family visits, U.S. government business, journalism, professional research, educational or religious activities and "support for the Cuban people," but will no longer require a license from the U.S. government. Travel agents and airlines will not need to seek licenses to fly to Havana. Moreover, travelers will be able to spend more money on the island and use credit cards, which were previously prohibited.

Travelers will also be able to return home with up to $400 worth of goods purchased in Cuba, including no more than $100 of alcohol or tobacco products - famous Cuban cigars.

Some of the measures are aimed more directly at helping the Cuban people, such as approval for the commercial sale or donation of computers, phones and televisions. The limit on the amount of money Americans can send to people on the island, known as remittances, will increase to $2,000 per quarter from $500.

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