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January 29, 2015

Lawmakers Launch Bill to End Cuba Travel Restrictions

washington dcEight senators have introduced a bill to end restrictions on travel to Cuba, Reuters reports. According to a statement by the senators, the bill would end legal restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens and legal residents, as well as restrictions on banking transactions related to travel. 

Republicans Jeff Flake, Jerry Moran, Michael Enzi and John Boozman, as well as Democrats Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin, Tom Udall and Sheldon Whitehouse, are the senators backing the bill. In the House of Representations, Republican Representative Mark Sanford and Democratic Representative Jim McGovern plan to introduce companion legislation next week. 

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the bill will face tough opposition in Congress

"Anything's possible," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of the bill's passage to the Times. "But I don't think it's very likely."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have both expressed opposition to opening relations with Cuba. 

The Latest Cuba Travel Rules

The latest change to Cuba travel restrictions came in mid-January, when the government announced that Americans can visit Cuba without obtaining a special license from the government for 12 reasons:

1. Family visits
2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3. Journalistic activity
4. Professional research and professional meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
8. Support for the Cuban people
9. Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutions
11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines 

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) released a Member Alert breaking down how the new rules apply to travel agents

"Under the new rules, any travel agent can book travel to Cuba for their clients as long as the trip complies with current law and regulations and the client certifies as much," ASTA said. "That certification and other records must be kept for five years."

The new regulations are available here. Additionally, the Office of Foreign Assets Control has a list of frequently asked questions here

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