Can you travel to the US if you have been to Cuba?
For those looking for a 2023 winter holiday during the colder months, a holiday to Cuba is a no-brainer. Warm dry weather is pretty much guaranteed from November to April and the sparkling sea, stunning landscapes and unique culture make Cuba an epic holiday destination to remember.
But what happens if you want to visit Cuba (or you have already been) and you also want to travel to the US in the future? Can you currently travel to the US if you have been to Cuba?
If you are reading this, chances are that you might have heard somewhere that you cannot enter the US if you’ve recently travelled to Cuba (yikes!). But fear not, in this blog, Cubania Travel’s Director Lucy explains everything you need to know to enjoy your trip in Cuba AND travel to the USA worry-free.
From 12th January 2021, the US placed Cuba on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism, a last-minute callous move by the Trump administration as they were leaving the White House. US law states that any person travelling to a country on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism cannot apply for the ESTA Visa Waiver Programme and must apply for a visa via the US Embassy.
This obviously worried a lot of international travellers and has created great confusion about who can/cannot enter the US and Cuba.
The legal bits
In October 2022, the US Government started enforcing the restriction on people who have travelled to Cuba since 12th January 2021. These travellers are no longer eligible to apply for the ESTA Visa Waiver programme, and need to apply for a US visitor’s visa (B1/B2) via their nearest US Embassy.
According to the US Department of Homeland Security Website:
“Ineligibility for an ESTA is not a bar to travel to the United States. Individuals who are not eligible to travel under the VWP may apply for a visa at any U.S. embassy or consulate”
However, the restriction does deter some from making plans to visit Cuba, a country which has endured hostile political and economic restrictions by the USA since 1959. The US Embargo on Cuba and other restrictions are an attempt to destabilise Cuba’s Revolutionary government, whose politics are at odds with the USA.
It seems like it’s specifically designed to deter non-US citizens from travelling to Cuba and forces them to comply with the US Embargo on Cuba, which the UN General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to condemn every year.
Can US citizens travel to Cuba legally?
Travel to Cuba from the USA is already restricted by the US Embargo on Cuba, but you can still do so. Head over to our blog where we share insights for US citizens who wish to travel to Cuba while supporting Cuban people.
Cubania Travel contacted the relevant authorities, and received assurances that this is more about political sabre rattling than anything truly sinister. It’s one more obstacle put in the way of Cuba, a country which has already endured a 60-year US Embargo. And the USA continues to make life difficult for the Cuban people.
While enforcement will likely be sporadic, it’s good to know how to avoid getting tangled up with US Immigration officers. So with that in mind…
What you need to know
Since October 2022, The Cuban authorities do NOT stamp passports on arrival or departure, eliminating concrete evidence that you’ve travelled to Cuba. It’s like you were never there! I’m not suggesting you lie to US authorities but the reality is that, so long as you don’t tell US authorities of your recent trip to Cuba, there’s no way they’ll know! Unless, of course, you’re travelling to/from Cuba via the USA in which case they’ll definitely know!
If, however, you’re a frequent traveller to the US or you just don’t want to risk it, you’ll need to make a US Visitor Visa Application via the US Embassy. It’s pretty straightforward, but do make sure you apply ahead of time as the process can take a couple of weeks.
Okay, so how do I apply for a US Visitor’s Visa?
If you are a frequent traveller to the USA, it makes better sense to get a 10-year visa, which allows you to enter and exit freely without worrying about ESTA Waiver Restrictions.
There are 2 options:
👔 B1 VISA (visitor visa for those temporarily engaging in business activities)
🏖️ B2 VISA (visitor visa for pleasure or tourism)
Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa to the USA is simple and the visas are generally valid for 10 years, costing $185. There is usually a 10-14 day delay between submitting your passport and receiving the visa so please make sure you allow time before travel.
If you’re travelling from the USA to Cuba and you are a non-US citizen, you’ll need to apply for a visa AND you will need to comply with US Regulations on travel to Cuba.
There is hope that Cuba will be removed from the Sponsors of Terrorism list soon. Recently, the Biden administration announced they will resume visa processing in their Havana Embassy in 2023. A good sign and a reason for cautious optimism with regard to US-Cuba relations.
So in conclusion, while the whole regulations, restrictions and process are an annoyance, they shouldn’t affect anyone’s future visits to either Cuba or the USA (phew!)
Thinking of planning your next holiday?
With over 20 years of experience organising sustainable tours in Cuba, at Cubania we have your back. Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites with a guide, cycle your way through rural villages, relax in sun-kissed Caribbean sands or learn how to make the tastiest mojitos! With Cubania Travel you’ll get closer to authentic, Cuban life.