New rules for Cuba ease travel and banking restrictions
The new regulations come before President Obama’s March 20-22 trip to Cuba
Individual travelers can now plan and make their own people-to-people trips
Banking rules could ease banks’ reluctance to engage in transactions
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Just days before President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba, the
administration announced new regulations Tuesday that will allow
individuals to travel to the island on their own people-to-people trips,
permit the use of U.S. dollars in more transactions with the island and
further relax restrictions on doing business.
The new regulations, the fifth round of changes in the past year, will
take effect Wednesday. They include:
? Individual travel — Americans on people-to-people educational tours
to the island used to have to travel in organized groups. Now they can
plan their own itineraries as long as they keep records showing they’ve
engaged in a full-time schedule of educational exchanges.
“This change is intended to make authorized educational trade to Cuba
more accessible and less expensive for U.S. citizens and will increase
opportunities for direct engagement between Cubans and Americans,” the
U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
Individual travelers can also make trips under the auspices of an
organization that sponsors people-to-people exchanges in which case the
burden of record-keeping falls to the sponsor.
? Banking regulations — Treasury outlined a series of new banking
regulations that could ease bankers’ reluctance to engage with Cuba. The
new rules make it clear that U.S. financial institutions will be able to
process cash, travelers checks and other U.S. dollar-denominated
monetary instruments indirectly presented by Cuban financial institutions.
Correspondent accounts at third-country financial instruments also may
be denominated in U.S. dollars, and U.S. banks will be allowed to open
and maintain bank accounts for Cuban citizens in Cuba who receive
payments in the United States for authorized transactions and send those
payments to Cuba.
Funds may also be transferred from a bank outside the United States,
pass through U.S. financial institutions and then be transferred to a
bank outside the United States without worry about the stiff penalties
of the past.
? Hiring — U.S. companies can hire Cuban nationals, in a non-immigrant
status, to work or perform in the United States provided that no
additional payments are made to the Cuban government related to their
sponsorship or hiring. That means Cuban athletes, artists, performers
and others who obtain the necessary visas will be allowed to come to the
United States and earn salaries and stipends above their basic living
Since the United States and Cuba began normalizing relations on Dec. 17,
2014, the United States has issued a series of regulations that make it
easier to do business with Cuba and for Americans to travel to the
island — even though the U.S. embargo still remains in place.
“Today’s amendments build upon President Obama’s historic actions to
improve our country’s relationship with Cuba and its people,” said
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. “These steps not only expand
opportunities for economic engagement between the Cuban people and the
American business community, but will also improve the lives of millions
of Cuba’s citizens.”
President Obama is scheduled to travel to Cuba March 20-22 on the first
visit to the island by a sitting American president in nearly 90 years.
Source: New rules for Cuba ease travel and banking restrictions | Miami