January 12, 2017 - The United States is revoking the so-called “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy for Cuban migrants that has been in place since the mid-1990s. Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to illegally enter the United States will be subject to removal, consistent with US enforcement priorities. The United States is also ending the special Cuban Medical Professional Parole program.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states that
"[t]hese actions are part of the ongoing normalization of relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba, and reflect a commitment to have a broader immigration policy in which we treat people from different countries consistently. To the extent permitted by the current laws of our two countries, the United States will now treat Cuban migrants in a manner consistent with how it treats others; unauthorized migrants can expect to be removed unless they qualify for humanitarian relief under our laws."
the change ends the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, adopted by the Clinton administration in 1996 at a time when illegal seaborne migrants were flooding across the Florida Straits. That policy differentiated between those reaching U.S. soil - who were allowed to stay - and those intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard - who were returned to Cuba or sent to third countries.
According to news reports, the total number of Cubans admitted after reaching here without visas by land or sea was 4,890 in 2013. In 2016, the number was 53,416. According to the Coast Guard, 1,885 people traveling by sea have either arrived here or been intercepted — and sent back — in fiscal 2017, which began Oct. 1.
The Government of Cuba has agreed to begin to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed. Cuba and the United States will work to further discourage unlawful migration to the United States and promote bilateral cooperation to prevent and prosecute alien smuggling and other crimes related to illegal migration.
To view the Joint Statement of the United States and Cuban governments, please click here. To view the Fact Sheet, please click here.
The United States' Department of the Treasury's office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) has issued new regulations that ease restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba.
Effective on January 16, 2015, OFAC eased restrictions in certain key areas. The principal changes are as follows.
Travel to Cuba
It is still not possible to travel to Cuba for general tourism. However, it is possible for get a general licences for 12 types of travel that would formerly have required a specific application each time. Each traveler who relies on a general licence for travel must retain specific records for five years that indicate that the travel was covered by the terms of a general license.
Broadly speaking, the general licences are available for
For a more detailed explanation of these categories, please see the FAQs on the OFAC website.
Sending/bringing money to Cuba
The limits on the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba is increased to $2000 per quarter (from $500). the amount that a traveler can bring to Cuba is now $10,000 (up from $3,000).
Travelers can bring up to $100 of alcohol or tobacco (yes, that limits the import of Cuban cigars!) from Cuba.
Travellers can now use many US-issued credit/debit cards in Cuba (check with your bank before travelling).
Trade with Cuba.
U.S.-owned or controlled entities in a third country are now authorized to provide goods and services to a Cuban national who is located outside of Cuba, provided that the transaction does not involve a commercial exportation, directly or indirectly, of goods or services to or from Cuba. A licence from the US Commerce Department may still be required, however, if the transaction involves the release of controlled technology to a Cuban national.
The Commerce Department regulations now authorize certain transactions related to communications to take place without the need for a license. This includes commercial sales and donations of the export and re-export of consumer communications devices (personal computers, mobile phones, televisions, memory devices, recording devices, and consumer software) and exports of items for the establishment and upgrade of communications-related systems and infrastructure.
The regulations also permits the export and re-export to Cuba of items to support private economic activity, including building materials, goods for use by private sector entrepreneurs such as auto mechanics, barbers and hairstylists and restaurateurs, and tools and equipment for private sector agricultural activity.
For more information, please see these links:
OFAC Cuba page
Commerce Dept, Bureau of Industry and Security, Cuba page.
Commerce Dept. Fact Sheet
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.