U.S. Travel to Cuba
Important information and frequently asked questions about United States citizen travel to Cuba.
U.S. travel restrictions make it difficult for all U.S. residents to travel to Cuba. The following questions and answers are a good place to start to understand the restrictions, and who may travel and when. An important first step is to read the U.S. Treasury Department regulations yourself to ensure that you know what is and is not permitted. From there, we at Common Ground will help you to the best of our ability.
Click the questions to view corresponding answers.
Is it legal to travel to Cuba?
Many Americans are permitted to travel to Cuba. The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department administers the Travel Restrictions. If you are subject to U.S. jurisdiction or you do not consider yourself to be but reside in the United States or are planning to leave from and/or reenter the United States, regardless of citizenship, residency, or immigration status, or point of departure from Cuba, you must travel under one of the categories of people permitted to travel to Cuba. Common Ground is a licensed service provider, meaning the agency has a special license from the Treasury Department to make travel for Cuba. As such, we may work only with those who fall into one of the permitted categories of travelers to Cuba. Working with Common Ground is a convenience but does not change or guarantee your compliance with the U.S. regulations.
Who can travel to Cuba?
Those who fall under the following categories are permitted to travel to Cuba under existing U.S. regulations:
- Official government travelers
- Persons Cuban born or of Cuban origin visiting family
- Persons traveling for religious purposes with their congregation or representing their congregation
- Students traveling under specific authorization of their university for credit towards a degree
- University faculty and staff traveling for authorized purposes for their university
- Full-time professionals conducting research
- Full-time professionals attending certain international conferences
- Persons who have received a specific license
More info on Travel Restrictions
provided by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control
How do I know if I qualify?
All travelers should review the Travel Restrictions to see if one of the categories applies to you. If you are still uncertain, feel free to call one of the Common Ground staff members. Bear in mind, though, that we are not legal advisers and that we may advise you to contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control or a lawyer. Once you commit to travel, you sign a Travel Affidavit which Common Ground collects for their records. If you are traveling under specific license, you will provide us with a copy of the license and an original signed authorization if it is an institution that holds the license rather than you personally. There is no waiting or approval period. You are responsible for providing further information about your qualifications to the Treasury Department if asked.
I am Cuban American, how can I visit family in Cuba?
Read the U.S. government Travel Restrictions. These apply to anyone traveling from U.S. territory and returning to U.S. territory. In brief, a person with family in Cuba can visit their family for an unrestricted period of time. A person of Cuban origin also may travel to Cuba as an academic or other professional in order to carry out full time research in Cuba, may travel as a journalist, or as a student for academic credit towards their degree from their university. There are also specific licenses provided by the U.S. Treasury Department OFAC in specific categories. It is your responsibility to read and known the regulations of the U.S. government. For more information on Cuban family visits, read our section "Viajes Familiares" and "Passports, prorogas""
What do I have to do to be able to travel to Cuba?
Common Ground requires that each traveler fill out an application and Travel Affidavit. If you plan to fly directly from the U.S. on a charter flight you must also fill out a reservation form for the charter company. Common Ground requires a Travel Affidavit and reservation form with original signatures to confirm reservations. You will also need a visa to enter Cuba. Common Ground is authorized by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to issue visas for all passengers entering on a "tourist card" and assist with press visas, academic visas, cultural visas, and visas for Cubans and Cuban Americans (family reunification visits).
How can I take a group to Cuba?
If you are interested in taking a group of students, colleagues, church or synagogue members, or other kind of licensed group to Cuba, Common Ground can organize your group trip. We can provide pre-paid flights, ground and air transportation in Cuba, a program of activities, academic courses and seminars, visits to sites and institutions, guide service, meals, medical/evacuation insurance and any other services you may need. Common Ground has created customized programs for many different kinds of groups. Visit our Plan a Group Trip page for sample itineraries and more information.
Do I have to go through a 3rd country to get to Cuba?
There are direct flights from New York/JFK, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, and Los Angeles. If you prefer you may also travel through a third country; often the price or flight schedule is convenient. Some of the most common routes are through Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Canada. See our flight schedules for details on both direct flights and flights through a third country.
What’s the difference between "professional research" and a "professional attending a conference"?
Those who plan to attend a professional meeting or conference may travel under this category if the meeting or conference is organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences in other countries. The organization sponsoring the meeting must not be headquartered in the United States. If headquarted in Cuba, the international organization will need to establish that it is indeed international and not a Cuban organization with an international focus. Common Ground works with several professional organizations sponsoring meetings, such as for lawyers, health workers, teachers and social workers, and we invite you to review the upcoming schedule to determine if one of those might be appropriate for you. Those who are conducting full-time, academic research in their professional field, whether at a conference or on their own, may qualify to travel under the "professional research" category.
I’m invited to a conference. What do I need to do?
How do I apply for a specific license?
First read the U.S. Treasury Department guidelines for application for a specific license. Common Ground can help you obtain information and answer questions. We have helped many institutions successfully through the application process.
How do I bring someone from Cuba?
Common Ground is authorized to arrange travel to the United States for Cubans coming for research, educational and cultural exchanges, including conferences. Those coming for such exchanges will need a letter of invitation from the sponsoring U.S. organization to initiate the arrangements in Cuba; they need to make arrangements for their visit in conjunction with their Cuban work center or institution, including application for visa to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The process can take 3-6 months and we do not recommend beginning the actual travel planning at least until the visitor has some certainty that the visa will be granted. When you are ready, Common Ground can book a flight for the person you would like to bring, which is pre-paid by cash, check, or credit card. Travel for those emigrating from Cuba to join their families, or for visits to families in the United States must be arranged in Cuba by the person traveling.
I am a student, how can I travel to Cuba?
As an undergraduate or graduate student, you may travel to Cuba for full time credit towards your degree, with specific authorization from your University. For undergraduate students, such travel will primarily be with a group of fellow students and their professor. Please see the section "short and long term study trips"