Export Compliance and Cuba (Nov 2015)

By Wendy M. Epley, ECoP®-EAR & ITAR

On 18 September 2015, the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce announced amendments pertaining to the Cuban Sanctions Regulations1. These changes went into effect on 21 September 2015 and affect sanctions related to travel, telecommunications and Internet-based services, business operations in Cuba, and remittances. Treasury noted that these changes are “designed to empower the Cuban people and support the emerging Cuban private sector.” However, despite the changes, Cuba remains subject to U.S. embargoes and thus restrictions apply.

The CITI Program Export Compliance course consists of 11 modules. The last of these is titled Export Compliance and United States Sanctions Programs. Information in this module may assist organizations planning research in any of the areas impacted by the U.S. sanctions programs, including Cuba. The purpose of this module is to understand university activities that are subject to U.S. sanctions programs. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the U.S. Department of Treasury administers and enforces sanctions programs. Researchers and administrators are likely aware of some of the most common U.S. sanctions programs, such as the sanctions against Cuba and Iran. However, even with these more commonly known sanctions programs, there are implications that researchers and administrators must be aware of. The CITI Program module on Export Compliance and United States Sanctions Programs provides an overview of the sanctions programs and how they intersect with university activities, including teaching and research activities.

cuban sanctions regulations, embargo, cuba, america


It is important to note that all readers must consult with their organizations’ Export Control Office, General Counsel, and/or other responsible delegate well in advance of travel to countries covered by the sanctions program to ensure that the activity does qualify and meets organizational policy and processes. If the activity does not meet all criteria outlined within the regulations, travelers should be prepared to work with their organizations in submitting a request for a specific license that would authorize the activity.

For example of the criteria to be met, travel to Cuba under a General License2 is still limited to twelve specific categories3; travel for tourism remains unauthorized. Some of the changes that organizations and researchers may now enjoy having now under the General License are:

  • The ability to travel from the U.S. directly to Cuba aboard a vessel. This includes paying for lodging aboard the vessels when the purpose for visiting Cuba is authorized under the General License.
  • Close relatives4 will now be allowed to visit or accompany authorized travelers for additional educational activities, journalistic activity, professional research, religious activities, humanitarian projects and activities of private foundations or certain research or educational institutes.
  • Authorized travelers will be allowed to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba in order to access funds for authorized transactions while physically located in Cuba.
  • Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be allowed to import Cuban-origin mobile applications into the United States and to hire Cuban nationals to develop them.
  • Additional educational activities involving Cuba and Cuban nationals, including the provision of standardized testing services and Internet-based courses, are authorized under the expanded General License.
  • Academic exchanges and joint non-commercial academic research with universities or academic institutions in Cuba are also authorized.
  • Humanitarian projects have been expanded to include disaster relief and historical preservation.

1 OFAC. (2015). “Treasury and Commerce Announce Further Amendments to the Cuba Sanctions Regulations.” U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control. September 18, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0169.aspx
2 A General License is an authorization from the U.S. Government that allows a transaction to occur as long as that activity is authorized and all criteria have been met. In addition, extensive recordkeeping practices must be employed. Because of the recordkeeping requirements some institutions have not modified their business practices in order to preserve the validity of the travel.
3 31 CFR 515.560 Travel-related transactions to, from, and within Cuba by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
4 A close relative is defined as someone related to a person by blood, marriage, or adoption and who is no more than three generations removed from that persons or a common ancestor with that person.

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Last Updated: 09-Jan-2019 12:01 p.m. EST
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