Background: The U.S. Trade embargo
The embargo laws do not forbid U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba. They do, however, forbid U.S. citizens from spending money there without the proper permits, which essentially amounts to the same thing—unless you plan on begging your way around the country (from Cubans who don’t have much themselves) and sleeping on cardboard in the parks. Even if you brought your own food, you’d still violate the law by paying the twenty-five dollars to the immigration guy for your tourist card. You even have to pay to get out: twenty-five bucks for a “departure tax.”
The penalty for violating the embargo law is stiff: Up to ten years jail time, $250,000 in criminal fines, and $55,000 in civil fines for each violation. So that café con leche you drank at the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana could end up costing you a bundle if a U.S. customs officer finds the receipt in your pocket.
The U.S. restrictions on spending money in Cuba apply to all citizens and residents of the United States—no matter from what country you travel to Cuba and even if you have dual citizenship. The restrictions also apply to non-U.S. citizens physically in the U.S.
I’m confused about the current U.S. laws that forbid or restrict travel to Cuba. What’s the scoop? Are U.S. citizens allowed to travel to Cuba or not?
Excerpted from Cuba Information Manual: The Definitive Guide to Legal and Illegal Travel to Cuba by Michael Bellows. For details
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