New Commerce Department Procedure Available for U.S. Cuba License Holders – It’s a Bit Hard to Find, But if You Need It, You Need It

We all know that export regulations cannot keep up with reality. Reforms are happening very quickly, especially regarding Cuba. So, here’s a new procedure we just discovered. Perhaps it can help you if you are ever similarity situated.

Let’s say you have a license to export agricultural goods to Cuba; however, you didn’t realize that the license expired before the payment for your products was sent. Thus, your payment is “stuck” in another country at a third-party bank because it can’t come into the U.S. What do you do?

Normally, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) handles blocked funds and accounts, but in this case, your account isn’t actually blocked. After filing your Voluntary Self Disclosures with both the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and OFAC, the OFAC Cuba folks say, “Talk to (the Department of) Commerce.” BIS sends your voluntary disclosure to a regional enforcement field office for processing. Everyone in the government agrees that you have a problem. However, the Commerce regional office has never heard of a way to get your funds released because there are actually no procedures for this situation in the regulations. You are told that this will take “time.”

It turns out that BIS actually has created a procedure for just this situation, but it hasn’t been well publicized inside or outside of Commerce. One team inside the Office of Exporter Services has been anointed with the task of preparing release letters authorizing fund transfers (reviewed on a case by case basis, of course). Not only is this team helpful, it is fast and efficient. Kudos to BIS for creating another procedure to assist exporters. Just remember, you must file a voluntary disclosure before you discuss your situation with BIS.