New rules came out on September 21, 2015 from both the Commerce and Treasury Departments. Although for the most part these changes only slightly broaden or clarify pre-existing exceptions to the embargo against Cuba, they nevertheless have the potential to open up the Cuban market to another handful of U.S. companies. See if you qualify.
Commerce Department (BIS) regulatory changes allow:
- Leasing and loaning of Consumer Communication Devices to the Cuban private sector
- U.S. company branch offices in Cuba, and exports of promotional gifts and items for demonstrations and exhibitions
- Temporary exports of tools to service or repair previous U.S. exports and foreign-origin items for the Cuban private sector
- License applications to export and reexport items to Cuba that ensure the safety of civil aviation and the safe operation of commercial passenger aircraft
- Sharing of EAR99 technology and source code with Cuban nationals in the U.S. without a license
Treasury Department (OFAC) regulatory changes allow:
- Carrier services by ship (including lodging services aboard such vessels)
- U.S. persons to accompany relatives when those relatives go to visit a close family member in Cuba or go to Cuba for an authorized reason
- Authorized travelers to open bank accounts in Cuba to access funds while there
- U.S. persons to establish a business presence (branch office) in Cuba, enter into licensing agreements, and engage in marketing associated with approved transactions
- Imports of Cuban-origin mobile applications into the U.S.
- U.S. persons to provide goods and services to Cuban nationals located in third countries
- Standardized testing services and internet-based courses for Cuban nationals
- Cuban and U.S. universities to engage in academic exchange programs
While these changes bring the United States a small step closer to normalizing trade with Cuba, it is still important to remember that they do not alter the longstanding comprehensive trade embargo. As a result, a thorough review of any transaction involving Cuba or a Cuban national is still required to ensure that both BIS and OFAC licensing requirements have been met and the transaction does not violate federal law. And when further changes to the sanctions program are announced, be sure to check back in for a quick summary of the highlights.