[author: Elizabeth Owerbach]

On September 21, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published updates to their respective Cuba embargo regulations. These amendments follow the changes made so far this year in an effort to continue normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba, including most recently, the final rule published by BIS on July 22 implementing the rescission of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

While the United States continues to maintain a comprehensive trade embargo on Cuba, these recent amendments issued by OFAC and BIS further relax certain aspects of the embargo. Highlights of the new developments appear below.

Amendments Issued by OFAC

Authorize carrier service by vessel and certain lodging services: Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are now authorized to provide to specified categories of persons carrier services by vessel and certain lodging services aboard such vessels in connection with such transportation.

Expand family visit authorizations

Permit travelers to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba (provided travel is otherwise authorized)

Expand authorizations for telecommunications and internet-based services

Create authorization for physical presence in Cuba: Certain persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to establish a physical presence in Cuba (e.g., an office or other facility) to facilitate authorized transactions. This authorization covers the following: news bureaus; exporters of goods authorized for export; providers of authorized mail and parcel transmission services and cargo transportation services; providers of telecommunications or internet-based services; entities organizing or conducting certain educational activities; religious organizations; and providers of travel and carrier services.

Expand authorized financial transactions: Limitations on certain remittances have been lifted.

Expand authorized commercial transactions: All persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to provide goods and services to Cuban nationals located in third countries. Banking institutions are authorized to open, maintain, and close bank accounts for such Cuban nationals.

Expand gift allowances: Importation into the United States of merchandise from Cuba or Cuban-origin merchandise from a third country intended as gifts is authorized provided that the value of the merchandise is not more than $100, the merchandise is of a type and in quantities normally given as gifts between individuals, the merchandise is sent and not carried by a traveler, and the merchandise is not alcohol or tobacco products.

For additional information, please see OFAC’s updated FAQs page.

Amendments Issued by BIS

Expand the scope of license exception Support for the Cuban People (SCP): Temporary reexports—in addition to temporary exports—to Cuba are now authorized for eligible end-uses, and professional meetings have been added to the list of authorized end-uses. BIS has added the requirement that authorized items remain in the traveler’s effective control. BIS has confirmed that eligible items include company-owned or personally-owned laptops and mobile devices designated under Export Administration Regulations as EAR99 or controlled on the Commerce Control List (CCL) only for anti-terrorism (AT) reasons.

Expand the availability of license exceptions for Aircraft, Vessels and Spacecraft

Add a new licensing policy for civil aviation safety: BIS has added a policy of case-by-case review of license applications for exports and reexports of items to ensure safety in civil aviation and safe operation of commercial passenger aircraft.

For further information, please see BIS’s updated Cuba page, including FAQs.