BIS/OFAC Walk Back Obama Era Cuba Travel Regulatory Reforms

With simultaneous FINAL RULES scheduled to be published in tomorrow’s (June 5th, 2019) Federal Register, both OFAC and BIS will, effective tomorrow, be rescinding liberalization of travel rules that were enacted in the waning days of the Obama Administration. Specifically, with regard to BIS, tomorrow’s final rule amends license exception AVS (temporary sojourn of aircraft, vessels and spacecraft) effectively removing use of this license exception for passenger and recreational vessels from making temporary sojourn to Cuba. Under the new rule, AWS will no longer apply for cruise lines (and many aircraft as well) and BIS licenses for cruises will be subject to a presumption of denial (sorry, looks like no more Cuba cruises!). Air travel will face restrictions with some exceptions. In a separate final rule to be published tomorrow (June 5th 2019) OFAC is amending § 515.565 of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (31 CFR Part 515) to remove the authorization for group people-to-people educational travel in § 515.565(b). OFAC is adding a “grandfathering” provision in § 515.565(b) to authorize certain group people-to-people educational travel that previously was authorized where the traveler has already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to June 5th, 2019. If you want to take advantage of the group people-to-people educational travel exception better book before midnight today as it will be too late tomorrow. The Trump Administration is citing Cuba’s support for anti-democratic regimes, namely Venezuela for this new tightening of regulations. The Administration is intent on limiting the export of hard currency to Cuba, and effectively ending what was a short lived détente between the U.S. and Cuba. For more details on changes to the Cuban regulations please contact our office.

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