The U.S. Department of Commerce and Department of the Treasury have announced additional changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations intended to facilitate travel, expand telecommunications and internet-based services, and authorize certain business operations in Cuba. Published on September 21, these new policy changes take effect immediately. Among the changes are specific provisions aimed at expanding U.S. presence in Cuba:
- Allow licensed businesses, organizations, and humanitarian groups to establish physical offices in Cuba to carry out authorized agricultural, freight, transportation, telecommunications and internet, educational, and religious activities. Those businesses may export and reexport items to operate those offices.
- Authorize academic exchanges between U.S. and Cuban colleges and universities.
- Allow for the export and reexport of items to Cuba to ensure the safety of civil aviation and operations of commercial passenger aircraft, including parts and components, software and technology, air traffic control, communications, and other devices.
- Ease restrictions on the import of mobile applications to the United States. U.S. companies are permitted to hire Cuban nationals to develop the applications.
- Allow persons to provide goods and services to Cuban nationals located outside of Cuba, provided that it does not involve the commercial exportation of goods or services to or from Cuba.
- Permit close relatives to accompany authorized travelers going to Cuba for educational, journalistic, humanitarian or religious activities or research.
- Allow travelers to open bank accounts in Cuba to make transactions during their stay.
- Lift the rules limiting the monetary amount of remittances to Cuban nationals.
Importantly, these policy changes pave the way for companies to establish subsidiaries within Cuba, including joint ventures with Cuba firms, to provide authorized telecommunications and internet-based services. These policy changes reflect the Obama administration’s continuing efforts to ease restrictions on trade with Cuba pursuant to President Obama’s announcement last December. In July, the U.S. and Cuba formally reestablished diplomatic relations. On September 17, 2015, José Cabañas became Cuba’s first Ambassador to the United States in over 50 years.
Although U.S. nationals are allowed to provide and receive certain qualifying goods and services to and from Cuban nationals, the embargo on the commercial export of goods and services remains in place.
Companies and individuals interested in transactions with Cuba or traveling to Cuba should consult with counsel prior to engaging in these activities.