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Travel to Cuba

Travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens is generally restricted because of the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba. These restrictions were reduced in January 2011 for education and academic research. Travel to Cuba is reviewed by the Office of Contracts and Grants for changes in the regulations. Travelers involved in research or educational activities are advised to visit the OFAC Cuba Sanctions website for further information.

Normally a “General License” is all that is required by a University of Houston faculty, staff or student traveling to Cuba. A general license authorizes a particular type of transaction for a class of persons without the need to apply for a “specific license”. All that is needed when traveling under the General License is a letter (use University letterhead) from the University signed by the department head authorizing the travel.

The education/research related class of persons and the type of transactions authorized under a General License include the following:

A. Faculty, staff and students of accredited U.S. graduate and undergraduate degree-granting academic institutions engaged in the following:

  • Participation in a structured educational program in Cuba as part of a course offered for credit by UH
  • Graduate Study academic research in Cuba specifically related to Cuba for the purpose of obtaining credit towards a degree at UH
  • Participation in a formal course of study at a Cuban academic institution, provided that the student is currently enrolled at UH and that the formal course of study in Cuba will be accepted for credit toward the student’s degree
  • Travel by UH faculty members to teach in a Cuban academic institution in which the teaching activities are related to an academic program at the Cuban institution, and the faculty member remains employed by UH. (Teaching duration minimum is 10 weeks)
  • Travel by UH faculty and staff to as identified in the activities listed above

B. Faculty conducting professional research or attending certain professional meetings that meet the following criteria:

  • Professional Research: Full time professionals y conducting research are authorized to engage in Cuba travel-related transactions and such additional transactions that are directly incident to conducting professional research in their professional areas provided that their research 
    • is of a noncommercial academic nature
    • comprises a full work schedule in Cuba
    • has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination
    • does not fall within categories of hobby, tourism, or recreational travel
  • Professional meetings: Attending professional meetings or conferences in Cuba provided that:
    • the meeting or conference is organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors meetings or conferences in other countries2) the organization, institution, or association sponsoring the meeting or conference is not headquartered in the United States unless it has been specifically licensed to sponsor the meeting 
    • the purpose of the meeting or conference is not the promotion of tourism in Cuba or other commercial activities involving Cuba that are inconsistent with the Regulations
    • the meeting or conference is not intended primarily to foster production of any biotechnological products

It is not expected that a UH traveler will fall outside of the class of persons and transactions listed above. When this occurs, a Specific License is needed to authorize travel to Cuba. A Specific License is a written document that is considered and issued by OFAC on a case-by-case basis. The traveler will need to complete the application process which is available on the OFAC website and work with the recommended travel service provider to apply.

Additional Information

Per diem limitation

OFAC restrictions limit per diem spending in Cuba to the current federal rates. Review the allowable per diem expense amounts.

Equipment Restrictions

A traveler may not take UH equipment to Cuba if they have answered yes to question (b) through (d) and no to question (e) on the travel embargo form. A license from the Department of Commerce is required to take UH equipment and items containing controlled information out of the country. It may take several months for UH to process and obtain such an equipment license. The following are a list of UH owned items that cannot be taken to Cuba:

  • laptop computers
  • PDAs
  • digital cameras
  • cell phones

(Personally owned equipment or items listed above may be taken to Cuba by the traveler as long as they do not contain controlled information. The items must be kept under the control of the traveler while in Cuba, and must be brought back to the U.S.)

What can be brought back from Cuba?

Travelers to Cuba may not bring back to the U.S., any goods of Cuban origin other than information or informational materials (i.e. books, posters, CD and photographs). This prohibition includes cigars, rum and manufactured items.


In case of an emergency while in Cuba, a traveler should contact the U.S. Interests Section in Havana at (537) 833-3551 through 3559 during business hours, or (537) 833-2302 for emergencies at other times.