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January 16, 2015

Meeting Attendees Will Be Able to Visit Cuba Without Special Permission

havanaThe United States government has announced a new set of regulations, which take effect Friday, that ease restrictions on travel to Cuba, the New York Times reports. Perhaps most significantly, U.S. citizens will be able to go to Cuba without a special license if they are attending a professional meeting.

With the new regulations, 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 

This means that corporate travel agents and airlines will now be able to sell Cuba travel without a specific government license. Additionally, travelers will be able to use credit cards and spend money in Cuba, and can bring back up to $400 in souvenirs (including $100 in alcohol or tobacco). 

The move follows the decision late last year to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana. That decision reversed a 50-year-old policy of isolation and embargo, and came following months of secret talks hosted by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis

According to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, many South Florida businesses are "dissecting the fine print" of the new rules, eager for a chance to expand business with the neighboring island of 11 million people. But the paper also notes that there will be both risks and benefits as U.S.-based companies begin to work in this "complicated new market." The Cuban government, meanwhile, has reportedly said nothing publicly about how it will regulate new trade with the United States or handle requests for more landing rights for flights.

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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