The U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce today announced new regulations intended to significantly loosen the embargo imposed against Cuba in 1963.  The changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), will go into effect on January 16, 2015, when the rules are published in the Federal Register.  The new rules are part of the implementation of the Obama Administration’s policy shift concerning Cuba, which was announced by President Obama on December 17, 2014.

The revised regulations include measures to:

  • Facilitate travel to Cuba for authorized purposes including travel-related transactions and other transactions incident to educational activities, journalistic and religious activities, professional meetings, and humanitarian projects, without the need for case-by-case specific licensing.  Significantly, though, the new regulations will not authorize travel for tourist activities, as that remains prohibited by statute;
  • Enable travel agents and airlines to provide authorized travel and carrier services, and under conditions established in the regulations permit certain entities to forward authorized remittances without the need for an OFAC license;
  • Raise the limits on remittances sent to Cuban nationals from $500 to $2000 per quarter and authorize remittances without limitation for humanitarian projects on a case-by-case basis;
  • Allow depository financial institutions to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions and permit U.S. financial institutions to reject and process certain funds transfer transactions;
  • Authorize transactions establishing mechanisms providing commercial telecommunications services linking third countries and Cuba; and
  • Authorize, with certain limitations, U.S.-owned or –controlled entities in third countries to provide goods and services to Cuban nationals in third countries.

In addition to the items listed above, the new regulations also cover a wide variety of financial, commercial and trade activities including authorization for foreign vessels to enter the U.S. after engaging in certain trade with Cuba; transactions with Cuban official missions and their employees to facilitate the reestablishment of diplomatic relations; and the unblocking of accounts of Cuban nationals permanently relocated outside of Cuba.