Last month, President Obama struck a deal with President Raul Castro effectively restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.
The US severed relations with Cuba way back in 1961 under President Eisenhower as part of the Cold War. Though the Cold War ended back in the ‘80s, Cuba has remained on our list of countries who support terrorism, has been under a trade embargo, and US citizens have been unable to visit Cuba as tourists.
Thanks to the new deal struck by Obama and Castro, a lot of that is changing. The two countries were in secret talks for several months. Ultimately, the talks led to the US releasing three Cuban spies that we have held since 1998. Cuba has released a US contractor it’s held since 2009. The island nation has also released 53 Cuban prisoners that the US identified as political prisoners, and Cuba has promised to expand internet access for its citizens.
Under the agreement, the US and Cuba have restored diplomatic relations and lifted many travel restrictions. The trade embargo with Cuba, however, is still in effect and can only be lifted by an act of Congress, which is unlikely with the current Republican leadership.
What This Means for US Travelers
The US is going to open a new US embassy in Havana. Cuba will begin providing visas to Americans who wish to travel to Cuba for business, educational, or religious purposes; to visit family; or to engage in a public performance. Travel to Cuba for tourism is still prohibited.
However, there are a number of Cuba-approved guided tour companies that will allow you to visit the country on educational Cuba visas. If such a tour doesn’t exactly sound like your cup of tea, take comfort that if you do get the chance to visit Cuba, you can now legally bring back up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars and rum. Now that’s something to celebrate!
Learn more about our current relationship with Cuba and ways to travel there by checking the White House fact sheet on Cuba. You can also give us a call anytime to get your questions answered.
We’ll be sure to keep you updated as our relationship with Cuba continues to develop. It seems clear that more changes will follow in the coming months and years as we begin to see the effects of this new relationship between America and Cuba.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.