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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Relations With Cuba

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Fact Sheet
August 30, 2013


More information about Cuba is available on the Cuba Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


Cuba's authoritarian regime assumed power by force in 1959 and has severely restricted fundamental freedoms, repressed political opponents, and violated human rights. The United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1960 and broke diplomatic relations in 1961, following the Cuban Government's expropriation of U.S. properties and its move toward adoption of a one-party communist system.

U.S. policy toward Cuba is focused on encouraging democratic and economic reforms and increased respect for human rights on the part of the Cuban Government. The U.S. Government has taken steps to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future. Although Cuba is subject to U.S. trade sanctions, the United States remains Cuba’s largest supplier of food. The United States is committed to supporting safe, orderly, and legal migration from Cuba through the effective implementation of the 1994-95 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords.

U.S. Assistance to Cuba

U.S. programs in Cuba include humanitarian support to political prisoners and their families, human rights and democracy promotion, and facilitating the free flow of information to, from and within the island.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Remittances play an important role in Cuba's state-controlled economy, with a significant portion (estimated between $1.4-$2 billion/year) coming from families in the United States. In 2009, the United States announced the lifting of restrictions on family travel and remittances to Cuba, expanded the list of items eligible for humanitarian export to Cuba, and announced new regulations for U.S. telecommunications companies to expand the flow of information to Cuba. In 2011, the United States announced regulatory changes to increase purposeful travel including religious, cultural, educational, and people-to-people travel; expand the individuals and groups eligible to send and receive remittances; and allow all U.S. international airports to apply to provide charter services to Cuba (currently 19 airports are authorized). Although economic sanctions are in place, in 2012, the United States was Cuba’s primary supplier of food and agricultural products, and humanitarian goods, a significant supplier of medicines and medical products, and Cuba’s seventh overall largest trading partner in goods.

U.S. federal regulations restrict travel to Cuba to licensed travelers engaged in certain specified activities. All U.S. travel to Cuba must be licensed by the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and must fall into one of 12 categories. Further information on the licensing process can be obtained from OFAC or at its website. Those contemplating travel to Cuba should consult the consular information page about the country. Following the resumption of Migration Talks to discuss implementation of the 1994-95 Migration Accords, in July 2013 the State Department announced the extension of the duration of non-immigrant visas for Cuban travelers from six months (single entry) to five years (multiple entry).

Other transactions by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest are also prohibited unless licensed by OFAC. For more information on transactions, please consult OFAC’s website.

All exports to Cuba must be authorized by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). Further information on exports to Cuba can be found at the BIS website. Imports from Cuba and other Cuban-origin goods (e.g., merchandise purchased or otherwise acquired in Cuba or of Cuban origin acquired in a third country) are prohibited, although importation of Cuban-origin information and informational materials (for example, publications, films, posters, photographs, tapes, compact discs, and artworks) are exempt from the prohibition. Further information on imports to Cuba can be found at the OFAC website.

Cuba's Membership in International Organizations

Cuba has an activist foreign policy and aims to find new sources of trade, aid, foreign investment, and political support, as well as to promote opposition to U.S. policy toward Cuba, in particular U.S. sanctions. Cuba and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Cuba was excluded from participation in the Organization of American States in 1962. That exclusion was lifted in 2009, with its future participation to be determined through a dialogue initiated by Cuba and in accordance with the practices, purposes, and principles of the OAS. To date, Cuba has not initiated such a dialogue, and does not participate in the OAS.

Bilateral Representation

The Chief of Mission of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba is John Caulfield; other principal officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Cuba is represented in the United States by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C.

More information about Cuba is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Cuba Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Cuba Page
U.S. Interests Section: Cuba
USAID Cuba Page
History of U.S. Relations With Cuba
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page
Travel and Business Information

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