P. Sullivan Specialist in Latin American Affairs
on travel to Cuba have been a key and often contentious component in U.S.
efforts to isolate Cuba’s communist government since the early 1960s.
Under the George W. Bush Administration, restrictions on travel and on
private remittances to Cuba were tightened. In March 2003, the
Administration eliminated travel for people-to-people educational exchanges unrelated
to academic coursework. In June 2004, the Administration further restricted
family and educational travel, eliminated the category of fully-hosted
travel, and restricted remittances so that they could only be sent to the
remitter’s immediate family. Initially there was mixed reaction to the
Administration’s June 2004 tightening of Cuba travel and remittance
restrictions, but opposition to the policy grew, especially within the
Cuban American community regarding the restrictions on family travel and
Obama Administration Policy
Under the Obama Administration, Congress took action in March 2009 by including
two provisions in the FY2009 omnibus appropriations measure (P.L. 111-8)
that eased restrictions on family travel and travel related to marketing
and sale of agricultural and medical goods to Cuba. Subsequently, in April
2009, President Obama announced that his Administration would go further
and allow unlimited family travel and remittances. Regulations implementing
these changes were issued in September 2009. The new regulations also
included the authorization of general licenses for travel transactions for
telecommunications-related sales and for attendance at professional
meetings related to commercial telecommunications.
In January 2011, the Obama Administration announced policy changes further
easing restrictions on travel and remittances. The measures (1) increase
purposeful travel to Cuba related to religious, educational, and
people-to-people exchanges; (2) allow any U.S. person to send remittances
to non-family members in Cuba and make it easier for religious institutions to
send remittances for religious activities; and (3) permit all U.S.
international airports to apply to provide services to licensed charter
flights. These new measures, with the exception of the expansion of
eligible airports, are similar to policies that were undertaken by the Clinton Administration
in 1999, but subsequently curtailed by the Bush Administration in 2003-2004.
Legislative Action in the 112th Congress
In the first session of the 112th Congress, there were several attempts aimed
at rolling back the Obama Administration’s actions easing restrictions on
travel and remittances. The House Appropriations Committee version of the
FY2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, H.R.
2434, would have rolled back President Obama’s easing of restrictions on
remittances and family travel; efforts to include the provision in an FY2012 “megabus” appropriations
measure, H.R. 2055, were unsuccessful. (Notably in the second session, neither
the House nor Senate Appropriations Committee-reported versions of the
FY2013 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations measure,
H.R. 6020 and S. 3301 respectively, have provisions regarding U.S.
restrictions on travel or remittances to Cuba.) Among other measures, H.R.
2583, the FY2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, would require enforcement
of travel regulations as in effect on January 19, 2009, and H.R. 2831
would amend the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 in an attempt to curb
frequent travel to Cuba by Cubans who have recently immigrated to the
Several initiatives were also introduced in the 112th Congress that would
further ease or lift such restrictions altogether. H.R. 1886 would
prohibit restrictions on travel to Cuba. H.R. 1888, in addition to
removing some restrictions on the export of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba,
would also prohibit Cuba travel restrictions. Two initiatives that would
lift the overall Cuba embargo, H.R. 255 and H.R. 1887, also would lift
restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. H.R. 380 would prohibit
funding to enforce restrictions on travel for educational activities in Cuba.
For further information, see CRS Report R41617, Cuba: Issues for the 112th Congress.
Date of Report: November 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 44 Order Number: RL31139 Price: $29.95
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