On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced that the United States would make significant changes to the embargo covering Cuba. It is understood that the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), will implement significant changes to the current embargo of Cuba, enforced by the United States pursuant to the Trading with the Enemy Act. Both OFAC and the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, have regulations in place that control transactions that involve Cuba and Cuban nationals.

OFAC will implement the specific Treasury changes pursuant to amendments to its Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The Department of Commerce will implement the remainder of the changes via amendments to its Export Administration Regulations (EAR). It is anticipated that OFAC will issue its regulatory changes within the next few weeks. Changes will not take effect until the new regulations are issued.

Although the embargo can be lifted by congressional action, it is also anticipated that President Obama, through the use of Executive Orders, will authorize both OFAC and the Department of Commerce to implement changes that will permit certain commercial sales; the export of goods and services, such as building materials and business-training communications hardware; and the use of credit cards and other banking-related activity. It is also expected that travelers from the United States will be permitted to purchase and return to the United States with Cuban goods with a value of up to $400, including Cuban cigars. Actual details will have to await the publication of Executive Orders and related regulations.

In addition to OFAC and Department of Commerce regulations, it is likely that customs regulations and related provisions will require amendments to implement provisions pertaining to the importation of goods, both commercial and by persons returning from Cuba and those entering the United States as non-residents.

It is also expected that travelers from the United States will be permitted to purchase and return to the United States with Cuban goods with a value of up to $400, including Cuban cigars.