On January 28, 2011, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515 (CACR or Cuba sanctions). The amendments implement policy changes announced by President Obama on January 14, 2011 to continue outreach efforts to the Cuban people. The amended regulations took effect immediately and among other things, authorize general licenses for (i) certain transactions with Cuban nationals who are permanent residents outside of Cuba, (ii) travel to Cuba in connection with educational and religious activities, and (iii) remittances to Cuba.

Prior to the amendments, the Cuba sanctions broadly prohibited transactions with Cuban nationals no matter where they resided. The amended regulations establish a new general license that authorizes persons in the United States to engage in certain transactions with individual nationals of Cuba who are permanent residents outside of Cuba. The general license is subject to the requirement that US persons obtain from the Cuban national at least two documents issued to the individual by the government authorities of the new country of permanent residence. However, all property in which a Cuban national has an interest that was blocked prior to the later of the date on which the individual took up permanent residence outside of Cuba or January 28, 2011, remains blocked.  

The amendments to CACR also add general licenses for certain educational and religious activities that had previously required specific licenses from OFAC. A specific license will still be required for any educational or religious activities not authorized under the new general licenses. The new general license for educational activities authorizes accredited US graduate and undergraduate degree-granting academic institutions to engage in travel-related transactions incident to certain educational activities. Students traveling under the general license must carry a letter on official letterhead, signed by a designated representative of the sponsoring US academic institution, stating that the study in Cuba falls within the scope of the general license.  

Similarly, the new general license for religious activities authorizes religious organizations located in the United States, including members and staff, to engage in travel-related transactions that are incident to religious activities in Cuba. Under the general license, travelers must engage in a full-time program of religious activities, and donations to Cuba or Cuban nationals are not authorized. In addition, individuals traveling under the general license must carry a letter on official letterhead, signed by a designated representative of the US religious organization, stating that the travel is within the scope of the general license.

Finally, the amended regulations add three general licenses related to remittances to Cuba subject to certain restrictions. These new licenses authorize (i) remittances of up to $500 per quarter to any Cuban national, except prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba or prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party, to support the development of private businesses, among other purposes; (ii) unlimited remittances to religious organizations in Cuba in support of religious activities; and (iii) remittances to close relatives who are students in Cuba pursuant to an educational license for the purpose of funding transactions authorized by the license under which the student is traveling.