Tag Archives: OFAC

Biotech Venture Between U.S. and Cuba to Develop New Cancer Treatments

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced the formation of the first-ever biotech venture between the U.S. and Cuba. Buffalo-based Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Havana-based Centro de Inmunología Molecular (CIM) formed Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance S.A. to develop pioneering immunotherapies not widely studied or available outside of Cuba. The joint venture aims to advance the research and development of new cancer drugs that may prolong survival rates and quality of life for thousands of cancer patients.

The new joint venture will for the first time give American researchers access to CIMAvax-EGF and three other Cuban-developed cancer drugs that were not previously available in the U.S. The four Cuban developed immunotherapies are designed to augment the body’s defense system to fight cancer.

CIMAvax-EGF is an immunotherapy treatment for lung cancer. The drug works by blocking a type of protein, epidermal growth factor (EGF), that is needed by cancer cells to grow. In Cuba, lung cancer patients treated with CIMAvax-EGF live longer with an improved quality of life and minimal side effects. Researchers believe that CIMAvax-EGF may also prove effective in treating colon, head and neck, prostate, breast and pancreatic cancers, as well as for the prevention of certain cancers.

Governor Cuomo said, “This historic venture with Cuba will provide Roswell Park access to innovative cancer-fighting drugs that could revolutionize treatments and put us one step closer to eliminating the threat of cancer once and for all.”

Roswell Park President and CEO Candace S. Johnson, PhD, said, “This is a momentous step forward on one of our most significant undertakings. With the establishment of this company, we are entering a critical new phase of Roswell Park’s collaboration with these innovative Cuban scientists. Our goal is to develop these promising cancer therapies as quickly and effectively as possible so that they can benefit the greatest number of U.S. patients.”

Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, Chief of Strategy, Business Development and Outreach at Roswell Park, said, “It’s incredibly rewarding to see our collaboration reach this crucial juncture. Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance S.A. will provide the support, expertise and infrastructure that will make it possible for Roswell Park to study these drugs and get them to U.S. patients. We believe these unique immunotherapies have the potential to change the landscape of cancer treatment, and we are proud to partner with our CIM colleagues to advance development of these therapies as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance S.A., will be based in Cuba and will be operated jointly by CIM affiliate, CIMAB S.A., and by a Roswell Park subsidiary, GBCT II LLC. Roswell Park holds a license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that permits preclinical and clinical research using these medical therapies.

Jose A. Aquino (@JoseAquinoEsq on Twitter) is a special counsel in the New York office of Duane Morris LLP, and a member of the Duane Morris Cuba Business Group. This blog is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual attorneys.

Effectiveness of Licensing Procedures for Agricultural Commodities to Cuba

The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is requesting public comments on the effectiveness of its licensing procedures for the export of agricultural commodities to Cuba. The comments must be in writing and received by October 17, 2018. BIS requests that the comments be as specific as possible.

The comments will be considered by BIS in developing its biennial report to the Congress on the operation of the licensing system for the preceding two-year period, as required by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. The report must include the number and types of licenses applied for, the number and types of licenses approved, the average amount of time elapsed from the date of filing of a license application until the date of its approval, the extent to which the licensing procedures were effectively implemented, and a description of comments received from interested parties. The biennial report is for the two-year period from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2018.

BIS is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce that implements U.S. Government sanctions against Cuba and certain other nations. BIS administers and enforces the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which regulate the export of commercial commodities, including the exports of agricultural commodities to Cuba.

All the comments will be made available for public inspection and copying. Material that the author does not want to be made public should not be submitted to BIS.

Additional information on BIS procedures and previous biennial reports are available at http://www.bis.doc.gov/​index.php/​policy-guidance/​country-guidance/​sanctioned-destinations/​13-policy-guidance/​country-guidance/​426-reports-to-congress.

Jose A. Aquino (@JoseAquinoEsq on Twitter) is a special counsel in the New York office of Duane Morris LLP, and a member of the Duane Morris Cuba Business Group. This blog is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual attorneys

Obama Administration Promotes Expanded Opportunities With Cuba.

On Friday, October 14, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued new amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR). OFAC is the federal agency responsible for enforcement of U.S. international economic sanctions. BIS is the federal agency responsible for developing export control policies, issuing export licenses, and prosecuting violations.

The Obama Administration is making these amendments in further support normalizing bilateral relations with Cuba. The objective of the new rules is to facilitate greater engagement between the United States and Cuba across multiple sectors. The OFAC and BIS regulations were previously amended on January 16, June 15, and September 21, 2015, and January 27 and March 16, 2016 to implement President Obama’s policy to further engage and empower the Cuban people.

“President Obama’s historic announcement in December 2014 charted a new course for a stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship,” said Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “The Treasury Department has worked to break down economic barriers in areas such as travel, trade and commerce, banking, and telecommunications. Today’s action builds on this progress by enabling more scientific collaboration, grants and scholarships, people-to-people contact, and private sector growth. These steps have the potential to accelerate constructive change and unlock greater economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans.”

“These amendments will create more opportunities for Cuban citizens to access American goods and services, further strengthening the ties between our two countries,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

Among other things, the new amendments add and expand authorizations of transactions related to Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals and joint medical research, trade and commerce, civil aviation safety-related services, travel to Cuba, and humanitarian services designed to directly benefit the Cuban people. Some of the changes, which go into effect on October 17, 2016, are:

  • Cuban-developed pharmaceuticals will be able to gain approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA-approved Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals can be imported, marketed, sold and distributed in the United States.
  • Americans will be allowed to engage in joint medical research projects with Cuban nationals. Both non-commercial and commercial research projects will be permissible.
  • Americans engaged in approved health-related activities will be allowed to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba for use in conducting the authorized busines
  • Americans will be permitted to enter into certain contingent contracts for trade with Cuba.
  • Americans who travel to Cuba will no longer be limited to bringing back goods worth up to $400, including $100 worth of tobacco and alcohol. OFAC is removing the monetary value limitations on what authorized travelers may import from Cuba into the United States. Normal limits on Americans’ importation of foreign products for personal use will apply to U. S. Citizens traveling from Cuba. OFAC is also removing the prohibition on Americans purchasing and bringing into the United States for personal use Cuban products obtained while traveling in third countries. Similarly, foreign travelers may bring Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products into the United States for personal use.
  • OFAC will waive the restriction prohibiting foreign vessels from entering a U.S. port for purposes of loading or unloading freight for 180 days after calling on a Cuban port for trade purposes.
  • BIS will generally authorize air cargo to transit Cuba.  The amended regulations allow cargo aboard aircraft bound for destinations other than Cuba to transit Cuba under a license exception.
  • BIS will authorize exports of certain consumer goods that are sold online or through other means directly to eligible individuals in Cuba for their personal use.
  • Americans will be allowed to provide civil aviation safety-related services to Cuba and Cuban nationals.

The Treasury regulations 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 515, are available by clicking here. The Commerce regulations 15 CFR parts 730-774, are available by clicking here.

Jose A. Aquino (@JoseAquinoEsq on Twitter) is a special counsel in the New York office of Duane Morris LLP, and a member of the Duane Morris Cuba Business Group. This blog is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual attorneys.

U.S. ANNOUNCES NEW AMENDMENTS TO THE CUBA SANCTIONS REGULATIONS

Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced new amendments to the Cuba Sanctions Regulations. The amendments further advance President Obama’s policy of easing of sanctions on Cuba. The changes will take effect on January 27, 2016, when the regulations are published in the Federal Register.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said: “Today’s amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations build on successive actions over the last year and send a clear message to the world: the United States is committed to empowering and enabling economic advancements for the Cuban people. We have been working to enable the free flow of information between Cubans and Americans and will continue to take the steps necessary to help the Cuban people achieve the political and economic freedom that they deserve.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said: “Following the first ever U.S.-Cuba Regulatory Dialogue and my fact-finding trip to Cuba in October, we have been working tirelessly to maximize the beneficial impact of U.S. regulatory changes on the Cuban people. Today’s Commerce rule builds on previous changes by authorizing additional exports including for such purposes as disaster preparedness; education; agricultural production; artistic endeavors; food processing; and public transportation. These regulatory changes will also facilitate exports that will help strengthen civil society in Cuba and enhance communications to, from and among the Cuban people. Looking ahead, we will continue to support greater economic independence and increased prosperity for the Cuban people, as we take another step toward building a more open and mutually beneficial relationship between our two nations.”

The Department of Commerce summarized the new amendments as follows:

Financing

Removing financing restrictions for most types of authorized exports.

  • Restrictions on payment and financing terms for authorized exports and reexports, except for agricultural commodities and agricultural items, will be removed, and U.S. depository institutions will be authorized to provide financing, including, for example, issuing a letter of credit for such exports and reexports. Currently, payment and financing terms for all authorized exports are restricted to cash-in-advance or third-country financing. Effective January 27, 2016, examples of permissible payment and financing terms for authorized non-agricultural exports and reexports will include: payment of cash in advance; sales on an open account; and financing by third-country financial institutions or U.S. financial institutions. OFAC is required by statute to maintain the existing limitations on payment and financing terms for the export and reexport of agricultural commodities and agricultural items.

Exports

Additional amendments to increase support for the Cuban people and facilitate authorized exports.

  • Certain Additional Transactions Authorized. OFAC is expanding an existing general license to authorize certain additional travel-related transactionsas are directly incident to the conduct of market research; commercial marketing; sales or contract negotiation; accompanied delivery; installation; leasing; or servicing in Cuba of items consistent with the export or reexport licensing policy of the Department of Commerce, provided that the traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.
  • Civil society. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of commodities and software to human rights organizations or to individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
  • News gathering. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of commodities and software to U.S. news bureaus in Cuba whose primary purpose is the gathering and dissemination of news to the general public.
  • Telecommunications. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of telecommunications items that would improve communications to, from, and among the Cuban people.
  • Agriculture. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of certain agricultural items (such as agricultural commodities not eligible for a license exception; insecticides; pesticides; and herbicides).
  • Civil aviation safety. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of items necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation and the safe operation of commercial aircraft engaged in international air transportation, including the export or reexport of such aircraft leased to state-owned enterprises.
  • Meeting the needs of the Cuban people. BIS is creating a case-by-case licensing policy that will apply to exports and reexports of items to meet the needs of the Cuban people, including exports and reexports for such purposes made to state-owned enterprises and agencies and organizations of the Cuban government that provide goods and services to the Cuban people.
  • Examples of exports and reexports eligible for this licensing policy are items for: agricultural production; artistic endeavors (including the creation of public content, historic and cultural works and preservation); education; food processing; disaster preparedness, relief and response; public health and sanitation; residential construction and renovation; public transportation; and the construction of infrastructure that directly benefits the Cuban people (e.g., facilities for treating public water supplies and supplying energy to the general public).
  • A general policy of denial will still apply to exports and reexports of items for use by state-owned enterprises, agencies, or other organizations of the Cuban government that primarily generate revenue for the state, including those in the tourism industry and those engaged in the extraction or production of minerals or other raw materials. Additionally, applications to export or reexport items destined to the Cuban military, police, intelligence and security services remain subject to a general policy of denial.

Air Carrier Services

Additional amendment to facilitate carrier service by air and with Cuban airlines.

  • The entry into blocked space, code-sharing, and leasing arrangements to facilitate the provision of carrier services by air, including the entry into such arrangements with a national of Cuba, will be authorized.

Travel

Expanding authorizations within existing travel categories to facilitate travel to Cuba for additional purposes.

  • Temporary Sojourn. Certain personnel who are operating or servicing vessels or aircraft will be authorized to engage in travel-related and other transactions in Cuba to facilitate the temporary sojourn of aircraft and vessels as authorized by the Department of Commerce in connection with the transportation of authorized travelers between the United States and Cuba.
  • Information and informational materials. OFAC will authorize travel-related and other transactions directly incident to professional media or artistic productions of information or informational materials for exportation, importation, or transmission, including the filming or production of media programs (such as movies and television programs); music recordings; and the creation of artworks in Cuba by persons that are regularly employed in or have demonstrated professional experience in a field relevant to such professional media or artistic productions. OFAC will also be expanding an existing general license to authorize transactions relating to the creation, dissemination, or artistic or other substantive alteration or enhancement of informational materials, including employment of Cuban nationals and the remittance of royalties or other payments.
  • Professional meetings. OFAC will authorize by general license travel-related and other transactions to organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba. The existing general license authorizes only attendance at such meetings or conferences.
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic, and other competitions and exhibitions. Similar to the change to the professional meetings category, OFAC will authorize by general license travel-related and other transactions to organize amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions and public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba. OFAC also will remove requirements that that U.S. profits from certain events must be donated to certain organizations and that certain events be run at least in part by U.S. travelers.
  • Humanitarian projects. OFAC will expand the list of authorized humanitarian projects to include disaster preparedness and response.

The Treasury regulations, which can be found at 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 515, can be seen here.

The Commerce regulations, which can be found at 15 CFR part 746, can be seen here.

Jose A. Aquino (@JoseAquinoEsq on Twitter) is a special counsel in the New York office of Duane Morris LLP, and a member of the Duane Morris Cuba Business Group. This blog is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual attorneys.

Exporting Agricultural Goods to Cuba: Who do I sell to?

The newly relaxed U.S. regulatory controls for the export of goods to Cuba have been scrutinized by the media. Not much, however, has been said about Cuba’s framework for importing goods. Understanding the Cuban government’s regulatory framework is a first step for U.S. companies looking to do business in Cuba.

Generally, U.S. firms will not deal directly with the end user of the exported product. For example, exporting agricultural products is not about trading with independent farmers or businesses in the island but, instead, about negotiating and dealing with the Cuban government through the government-run food trading company known as the Empresa Comercializadora de Alimentos (ALIMPORT).

ALIMPORT is the Cuban government’s procurement agency for U.S. agricultural products. It is the only approved importer for U.S. food products such as wheat, fruits, vegetables and meat. U.S. firms must negotiate with, and deliver goods to, ALIMPORT, who then takes control of the imports at the Cuban point of entry, manages distribution throughout Cuba and coordinates payments. The United States Department of Agriculture’s report on Cuba notes that “the key difference in exporting to Cuba, compared to other countries in the region, is that all U.S. agricultural exports must be channeled through one Cuban government agency, ALIMPORT.”

Jose A. Aquino (@JoseAquinoEsq on Twitter) is a special counsel in the New York office of Duane Morris LLP, and a member of the Duane Morris Cuba Business Group. This blog is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual attorneys.

OBAMA EASES TRAVEL AND TRADE RESTRICTIONS WITH CUBA

The Obama administration announced wide-ranging changes to loosen travel, commerce and investment restrictions on Cuba. The new rules allow American companies to open locations and hire workers in Cuba. U.S. companies will be allowed to establish subsidiaries or joint ventures as well as open offices, stores and warehouses in Cuba. Additionally, the new rules will expand telecommunications services, facilitate financial transactions between the two countries, remove limits on the amount of money that can be brought to Cuba, and allow “certain persons” to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba.

The changes will take effect when the regulations are published in the Federal Register on Monday, September 21, 2015, on the eve of Pope Francis’ visit to Washington. The Pope, who is scheduled to visit Cuba Sept. 19-22, has been a central figure in establishing the reconciliation between the United States and the island nation.

Jacob J. Lew, the Treasury secretary, said “Today’s announcement underscores the Administration’s commitment to promote constructive change for the Cuban people. These regulatory changes build on the revisions implemented earlier this year and will further ease sanctions related to travel, telecommunications and internet-based services, business operations in Cuba, and remittances,”

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said, “The regulations published today are designed to support the emerging Cuban private sector and bring us one step closer to achieving President Obama’s historic policy goals. These actions build upon previous Commerce regulatory changes, and will ease travel restrictions, enhance the safety of Americans visiting the country, and promote more business opportunities between U.S. and Cuban companies. In addition to expanding our commercial engagement with the Cuban people, these additional adjustments have the potential to stimulate long overdue economic reform across the country.”

The revisions will be administered by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). To see the Treasury regulations, which can be found at 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 515, click here. To see the Commerce regulations, which can be found at 15 CFR parts 740, 746, and 772, click here.

The Department of Treasury summarized the revised regulations as follows:

Travel –

Facilitating authorized travel and commerce, increasing contact between Americans and Cubans, and supporting civil society in Cuba:

  • ​Transportation by vessel of authorized travelers – between the United States and Cuba only and without stops in third countries – will be authorized by general license. Certain related lodging services aboard vessels used for such travel will also be authorized.
  • License Exception Aircraft, Vessels, and Spacecraft (AVS) will authorize temporary sojourns to Cuba of certain categories of vessels. Eligible categories of vessels are cargo vessels for hire for use in the transportation of items; passenger vessels for hire for use in the transportation of passengers and/or items; and recreational vessels that are used in connection with travel authorized by the Treasury.
  • License Exception AVS will authorize aircraft on temporary sojourn to remain in Cuba for up to 7 consecutive days and authorizes vessels on temporary sojourn to remain in Cuba for up to 14 consecutive days.
  • Close relatives will be allowed to visit or accompany authorized travelers for certain additional activities. In the January changes, OFAC permitted close relatives to join visits related to official government business and certain educational activities, and to visit additional family members residing in Cuba. Close relatives now also will be allowed to visit or accompany authorized travelers for additional educational activities, journalistic activity, professional research, and religious activities, as well as activities related to humanitarian projects and activities of private foundations or certain research or educational institutes. For purposes of this provision, a close relative is defined as someone related to a person by blood, marriage, or adoption – and who is no more than three generations removed from that person or a common ancestor with that person.
  • All authorized travelers will be allowed to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba in order to access funds for authorized transactions while in Cuba.

Telecommunications & Internet-Based Services –

Enhancing the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba, and better providing efficient and adequate telecommunications services between the United States and Cuba:

  • ​Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be allowed to establish a business presence in Cuba, including through joint ventures with Cuban entities, to provide certain telecommunications and internet-based services, as well as to enter into licensing agreements related to, and to market, such services.
  • Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be allowed to import Cuban-origin mobile applications into the United States and to hire Cuban nationals to develop them.
  • An existing authorization for the provision of services related to certain consumer communications devices exported to Cuba will be expanded to authorize services related to additional types of items authorized by Commerce, and to add training related to the installation, repair, or replacement of those items.
  • License Exception Consumer Communications Devices (CCD) will no longer be limited to sales or donations. This change to License Exception CCD is intended to support other types of transactions, such as leases and loans of eligible items for use by eligible end-users.

Commercial and Financial Transactions –

Refocusing sanctions so they do not prevent day-to-day transactions by Cuban individuals who are outside of Cuba:

  • ​All persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be allowed to provide goods and services to individual Cuban nationals located outside of Cuba, provided there is no commercial exportation of goods or services to or from Cuba.
  • Banking institutions will be able to open and maintain accounts for Cuban individuals for use while the Cuban national is located outside of Cuba, and to close such accounts.

Physical Presence and Operations in Cuba –

Facilitating certain authorized activities involving Cuba:

  • Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in the following categories of authorized activities will be allowed to establish and maintain a physical presence, such as an office, retail outlet, or warehouse, in Cuba: news bureaus; exporters of certain goods authorized for export or reexport to Cuba by Commerce and OFAC, such as agricultural products and materials for construction or renovation of privately-owned buildings; entities providing mail or parcel transmission services or certain cargo transportation services; providers of telecommunications or internet-based services; entities organizing or conducting educational activities; religious organizations; and providers of carrier and certain travel services. These individuals and entities will also be authorized to employ Cuban nationals, open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba, and employ persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Cuba.

Support for the Cuban People –

Improving living conditions, strengthening civil society, and supporting independent economic activity by the Cuban people:

  • ​License Exception Support for the Cuban People (SCP) will authorize certain exports and reexports of items to Cuba for use in establishing, maintaining, and operating a physical presence in Cuba. Eligible end-users of the items include certain persons providing telecommunications or internet-based services; establishing telecommunications facilities; providing travel or carrier services; organizing or conducting educational activities; or transporting authorized items between the United States and Cuba.
  • License Exception SCP will no longer be limited to sales or donations. This change to License Exception SCP is intended to support other types of transactions, such as leases and loans of eligible items for use by eligible end-users.
  • Certain temporary reexports from a foreign country to Cuba will be authorized by License Exception SCP when the items are for use in scientific, archeological, cultural, ecological, educational, historic preservation, sporting activities, or in the traveler’s professional research and meetings. Previously, this provision was limited to temporary exports by persons departing the United States.
  • Certain commodities and software for use in software development may be exported or reexported to eligible end-users in Cuba pursuant to License Exception SCP.
  • License Exception SCP will authorize temporary exports and reexports to Cuba of additional categories of items, including certain tools of trade to install, service, or repair items; and certain commodities and software for exhibition or demonstration.

Remittances –

Empowering Cubans with opportunities for self-employment, and in turn strengthening independent civil society:

  • ​The limits on donative remittances to Cuban nationals other than prohibited Cuban Government or Cuban Communist Party officials, currently set at $2,000 per quarter, will be removed entirely. The limits on authorized remittances that individuals may carry to Cuba, previously $10,000 for persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and $3,000 for Cuban nationals, will also be removed entirely.
  • The unblocking and return of remittances that were previously blocked because they exceeded the then-applicable caps on periodic remittances, and of certain previously blocked funds transfers, will be allowed.
  • Depository institutions will be allowed to maintain accounts for certain Cuban nationals present in the United States in a non-immigrant status, and will no longer be required to block such accounts if not closed before the Cuban national’s departure. Access to such accounts will be limited to while the Cuban national is lawfully present in the United States, although the account may remain open while the Cuban national is not in the United States. The $250 monthly limit on payments from previously blocked accounts held in the name of such Cuban nationals will be removed to more adequately allow access to funds for living expenses.
  • Remittances from Cuba and from Cuban nationals in third countries to the United States will be authorized by general license, and financial institutions will be allowed to provide related services.
  • An expanded general license also will authorize additional remittances to Cuban nationals in connection with the administration of estates. This provision complements another general license authorizing all transactions incident to the administration and distribution of the assets of estates in which a Cuban national has an interest.

Legal Services –

Updating the legal services provisions:

  • OFAC’s existing general license authorizing the provision of certain legal services to Cuba and Cuban nationals will be expanded to allow the receipt of payment for such services. Certain limitations will apply, related to payments from prohibited Cuban Government or Cuban Communist Party officials. Additionally, a new general license will authorize persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to receive, and make payment for, certain legal services from Cuba or Cuban nationals.

Civil Aviation Safety –

Supporting international aviation and passenger safety:

  • A case-by-case review policy will apply to license applications for exports and reexports to Cuba of items to help ensure the safety of civil aviation and the safe operation of commercial passenger aircraft. Items that are to be reviewed pursuant to this policy include aircraft parts and components; software and technology related to safety of flight; air traffic control, aviation communications, and aviation weather related equipment; airport safety equipment; and devices used for security screening of passengers and baggage.

Gift Imports –

Allowing certain gifts:

  • Imports of merchandise from Cuba or Cuban-origin merchandise from a third country intended as gifts, excluding alcohol and tobacco products, will be allowed to be sent to the United States provided that the merchandise is not carried by a traveler, the value of the merchandise is not more than $100, and the item is a type and in quantities normally given as a gift.

Educational Activities –

Increasing contact between American and Cubans and enhancing the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people:

  • ​Under an expanded general license, additional educational activities involving Cuba and Cuban nationals, including the provision of standardized testing services and internet-based courses, will be authorized.
  • Academic exchanges and joint non-commercial academic research with universities or academic institutions in Cuba will also be authorized.
  • Travel-related transactions in connection with these activities will also be authorized.

Ordinarily Incident Transactions –

Clarifying the scope of authorized transactions:

  • OFAC is clarifying that the Cuba sanctions provisions that are already in place allow most transactions that are ordinarily incident and necessary to give effect to a licensed transaction. For example, certain payments made using online payment platforms are permitted for authorized transactions.

Air Ambulances and Emergency Medical Services –

Facilitating access to emergency medical services:

  • The provision of air ambulance and other related emergency medical services to travelers in Cuba will be authorized by general license, and a general license will clarify that the provision of nonscheduled emergency medical services to Cuban nationals in the United States is authorized.

Humanitarian Projects –

Facilitating aid to the Cuban people in times of need and preserving Cuban history:

  • The general license authorizing transactions related to specified humanitarian projects will be expanded to include disaster relief and historical preservation.

Supporting Diplomatic Relations –

Supporting the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba in accordance with the President’s announcement:

  • ​OFAC is expanding the general license authorizing transactions with official missions of Cuba to the United States to include international funds transfers.

Jose A. Aquino (@JoseAquinoEsq on Twitter) is a special counsel in the New York office of Duane Morris LLP, and a member of the Duane Morris Cuba Business Group. This blog is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual attorneys.

Bill Introduced In Senate To End Travel Restrictions To Cuba

On January 29, 2015, a coalition of four Republican and four Democrat senators introduced legislation to restore freedom to travel to Cuba.[1] While President Obama has announced normalization of some relations between the two countries and relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba such that Americans traveling to Cuba no longer have to obtain specific licenses or get permission from the government, Americans are required to certify that their trip falls under one of the twelve categories of permitted travel.[2] Congressional action is necessary to permanently lift all restrictions on travel to the island nation. Bipartisan bill, S. 299, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015, would end restrictions in laws enacted in 1996 and 2000 on travel by American citizens and legal residents to Cuba. The bill would also end restrictions on related transactions incident to such travel, including banking transactions.

Several of the bill’s sponsors expressed their enthusiasm. Senator Jeff Flake said: “We have tried this current policy — we have prohibited travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked . . . It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.” Senator Dick Durbin said: “It’s time for a new policy. . . I think we’re going to see dramatic change in Cuba if there’s more travel, exchange and business between our two countries.”

Zane Kerby, President and CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), expressed the industry’s support for the proposed legislation: “While the Administration’s recent actions on Cuba were a step in the right direction, it is Congress that needs to step up to the plate on travel freedom. We are seeing that leadership now from Senators Flake, Leahy and their bipartisan coalition, and we will do everything in our power to get this bill across the finish line.”

A companion bill to S. 299 is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives next week by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Mark Sanford (R-SC).

To read a draft of S. 299, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015, click here.

[1] The four Republican senators are: Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and John Boozman (R-AR). The four Democrat senators: Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

[2] The categories of permitted travel to Cuba are: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Easing Of Restrictions On Travel To Cuba Goes Into Effect

On December 17, 2014, the Obama Administration announced new regulations governing travel to and trade with Cuba. Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce published in the Federal Register the revised Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations, which put into effect changes to the sanctions against Cuba administered by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.[1] The regulations are effective as of January 16, 2015.

The new regulations will immediately impact travel to Cuba. Although travel to Cuba for general tourist activity is still prohibited, under the new regulations, Americans will face fewer obstacles when traveling to Cuba, effectively ending the travel ban to the island. The administration’s new rules on travel and trade further the President’s goal of normalizing relations with Cuba by easing restrictions on travel, business and remittances. Under the previous rules, Americans traveling to Cuba had to justify their trips under 12 categories of permitted travel and in most cases obtain a specific license from the Treasury Department.[2] Although travel to Cuba will still be limited to the twelve existing categories, the new regulations are drafted in such a way that allow most Americans to travel to Cuba without obtaining a specific license from the U.S. government. Travel previously authorized by specific license will be authorized by general license, subject to appropriate conditions. This means that individuals who certify that meet the conditions laid out in the regulations will not need to apply for a license to travel to Cuba.

Airlines and travel agents will also be allowed to provide service to Cuba without a specific license. Americans may now book travel directly with airlines and travel agents instead of through government authorized agencies. The new regulations will significantly affect the travel, hospitality and leisure sector, including airlines, cruise lines, hotels and travel agencies.

Travelers will be allowed to spend as much money as they want on travel-related expenses while in Cuba, which was previously limited. Additionally, travelers will be allowed to engage in transactions related to travel within Cuba, including paying for costs of living expenses and purchasing goods for personal use while in Cuba. Travelers will also be allowed to use U.S. credit and debit cards in Cuba.

U.S. insurers will be allowed to provide coverage for global health, life, or travel insurance policies for individuals ordinarily resident in a third country who travel to or within Cuba. Health, life, and travel insurance-related services will continue to be permitted for authorized U.S. travelers to Cuba.

[1] U.S. Department of the Treasury regulations can be found at 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 515, see here. U.S. Department of Commerce regulations can be found at 15 CFR parts 730-774, see here.

[2] The twelve categories of permitted travel to Cuba are: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.