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U.S. Agencies Implement Latest Trump-Cuba Policy Changes

On May 30, 2019, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (Cuba Regulations), 31 C.F.R. Part 515 (2019), removing authorization for group people-to-people education travel to Cuba. Certain previously authorized group people-to-people education travel may continue to be authorized under a grandfathering provision that will also be added to the regulation. The revisions are effective as of June 5, 2019.

Importantly, the revocation reflects the Trump administration’s significant shift in policy towards Cuba, as the revisions implement changes restricting non-family travel first announced by National Security Advisor John Bolton in an April 17, 2019, foreign policy address. Under an earlier tightening of restrictions in 2017, OFAC had only restricted the General License for group people-to-people travel to require such travel be conducted by organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction (see previous GT Alert, U.S. Implements President Trump’s Cuba Policy), while this latest move removes the authorization entirely.

Previously authorized group people-to-people travel will be eligible for continued authorization under the grandfathering provision if the traveler has already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving an accommodation) prior to June 5, 2019.

In conjunction with the above, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) license exceptions and its licensing policies to “generally prohibit non-commercial aircraft from flying to Cuba and passenger and recreational vessels from sailing to Cuba.”

The License Exception Aircraft, Vessels and Spacecraft (AVS) in EAR § 740.15 has been amended by BIS to remove private and corporate aircraft, cruise ships, sailboats, fishing boats, and other similar aircraft and vessels from eligibility for the license exception. This means that all such aircraft and vessels subject to the EAR may no longer be exported or reexported to Cuba under the AVS exception, and operators will instead need to apply for a BIS license.

The following types of aircraft and vessels remain eligible for License Exception AVS: 1) commercial aircraft operating under Air Carrier Operating Certificates and other Federal Aviation Administration certificates; 2) authorized air ambulances; and 3) cargo vessels for hire for use in transportation of separately authorized items.

Parties that intend to travel to Cuba or to provide Cuba-related transportation services should carefully review the revised regulations to determine whether the new measures impose licensing requirements or other compliance obligations. Parties with previously scheduled group people-to-people travel to Cuba may wish to check the dates of their travel-related transactions and confirm that at least one purchase was made prior to June 5, 2019.

Although these latest revisions do not affect the remittance allowances permitted under the Cuba Regulations, Ambassador Bolton specifically mentioned in the April 17 speech that new restrictions on remittances will be forthcoming. Interested parties should, therefore, expect the restrictions on remittances to be implemented in the near future.

©2020 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 158


About this Author

Kara Bombach, Greenberg Traurig, Washington DC, International Trade and White Collar Defense Attorney

Kara Bombach assists companies to lawfully export goods, technology and services around the globe. She places significant emphasis on helping clients achieve practical, workable solutions to complex regulatory situations arising under anti-corruption and anti-bribery measures (U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and OECD Convention), export control laws (EAR and ITAR), anti-boycott laws, and special sanctions (embargoes) maintained by the U.S. government (OFAC and other agencies) against various countries (including Iran, Cuba and Sudan), entities and individuals....

Cyril Brennan, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Washington DC, International Trade Law Attorney

Cyril (Cy) Brennan focuses his practice on international trade regulation and compliance, with an emphasis on U.S. export controls and economic sanctions. Cy handles matters regarding the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), U.S. sanctions programs administered by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s anti-boycott regulations. In addition, he represents clients before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), and advises clients on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the foreign direct investment reporting requirements of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and other trade and investment-related regulations in the context of mergers and acquisitions.


  • Export controls and economic sanctions

  • Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)

  • Anticorruption compliance

  • Foreign direct investment reporting

  • Regulatory due diligence

  • Foreign ownership, control or influence (FOCI)

Renee Latour, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Washington DC, Corporate Law Attorney

Renee A. Latour focuses her practice on international trade regulation with an emphasis on compliance with U.S. export controls and economic sanctions. Renee assists clients on matters related to international trade that arise under the jurisdiction of various U.S. governmental agencies, including the Departments of Commerce, State, Treasury, and Defense. She advises on U.S. export control laws, anti-boycott laws and special sanctions maintained by the U.S. Government against various countries including Iran, Cuba and Sudan.

Renee also assists...

Sonali Dohale, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Washington DC, Environmental and International Trade Law Attorney

Sonali Dohale focuses her practice on compliance counseling, environmental due diligence and environmental litigation under state and federal statutes. Sonali’s experience at government regulatory agencies and her background in civil and environmental engineering help give her insight into both the legal and technical challenges faced by her clients.

In addition, Sonali assists clients engaged in international trade with a variety of federal regulatory issues, including matters related to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the...

Axel Urie international Trade and Customs Attorney Greenberg Traurig Law Firm

Axel Urie is a member of the International Trade and Customs Practice in Greenberg Traurig's Washington, D.C. office. He is experienced in trade remedy and customs matters, including litigation for domestic importers, producers, and foreign exporters.