Members of the public often ask whether and how they can provide humanitarian support for the Cuban people. While the embargo remains in place, the U.S. government prioritizes support for the Cuban people, and U.S. law and regulations include exemptions and authorizations relating to exports of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods to Cuba, as well as disaster response. In cases where these require an export license, the U.S. government can expedite review of such license applications to facilitate the timely export of humanitarian goods, including medical supplies, to Cuba. Through the Departments of Commerce and the Treasury, there are many options available for expediting the export of humanitarian goods to Cuba. We actively encourage those seeking to support the Cuban people to use these options and contact us if there are issues. Specific questions not answered below can be sent to CubaHumanitarian@state.gov, which will receive a prompt reply.
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), General Licenses (GLs) and Specific Licensing
OFAC maintains several general license authorizations designed to support the wellbeing of the Cuban people. The following GLs are related to humanitarian travel, trade, and assistance with Cuba pursuant to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), as outlined in OFAC’s Fact Sheet: Provision of Humanitarian Assistance and Trade to Combat COVID 19 .
- § 515.206(b) of the CACR stipulates that the prohibitions in the CACR do not apply to transactions incident to the donation of food to nongovernmental organizations or individuals in Cuba.
- § 515.533 of the CACR authorizes all transactions ordinarily incident to the export from the United States, or the reexport from a third country, to Cuba of items licensed or otherwise authorized by the Department of Commerce (Commerce) subject to certain conditions.
- § 515.572(a) of the CACR authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to provide carrier services by vessel or aircraft to, from, or within Cuba, in connection with authorized travel, without the need for a specific license from OFAC. Persons providing carrier services for authorized travelers going from the United States to Cuba may transport cargo and baggage accompanying an authorized traveler provided that the export of the cargo and baggage is authorized by Commerce, and other cargo or unaccompanied baggage whose export to Cuba is authorized by Commerce. Note: (1) the export or reexport of certain vessels or aircraft providing carrier services under § 515.572(a)(2) requires separate authorization from Commerce, and (2) the Department of Transportation currently limits passengers and cargo air services to and from Cuba.
- § 515.574 of the CACR authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, provided the activities are of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; or individuals and NGOs that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
- § 515.575 of the CACR authorizes, subject to conditions, transactions, including travel-related transactions, that are related to humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people. These authorized humanitarian projects include: medical and health-related projects; construction projects intended to benefit legitimately independent civil society groups; disaster preparedness, relief, and response; historical preservation; environmental projects; projects involving formal or non-formal educational training, within Cuba or off-island, on various topics.
- § 515.591 of the CACR authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to provide Cuba or Cuban nationals (including the Cuban government and state-owned entities) with services related to developing, repairing, maintaining, and enhancing Cuban infrastructure that directly benefit the Cuban people, consistent with the export or reexport licensing policy of Commerce. “Infrastructure” in this case means systems and assets used to provide the Cuban people with goods and services produced or provided by the public transportation, water management, waste management, non-nuclear electricity generation, and electricity distribution sectors, as well as hospitals, public housing, and primary and secondary schools.
Specific Licensing: For most transactions not otherwise exempt or authorized by OFAC general licenses, OFAC considers specific license requests on a case-by-case basis and prioritizes review of license applications, compliance questions, and other requests related to humanitarian support for the Cuban people. For additional information on OFAC’s licensing process, see the guidance at: OFAC Licensing Process.
If you have additional questions regarding the scope of the Cuba sanctions requirements, or the applicability or scope of any humanitarian-related authorizations, please contact OFAC’s Sanctions Compliance and Evaluation Division at (800) 540-6322 or (202) 622-2490, or by email at OFAC_Feedback@treasury.gov.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Licenses
The export and reexport to Cuba of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) generally requires a BIS license. While there is a general policy of denial for most exports and reexports to Cuba of items subject to the EAR, the EAR states which categories of exports and reexports may generally be approved or reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In addition, certain types of license exceptions exist for different categories of transactions. If the exporter determines the export or reexport transaction meets the criteria of the license exception, the exporter may choose to use the license exception and not apply for a license.
There is a general policy of approval for the following categories of exports, subject to certain conditions:
- Medicines and medical devices, whether sold or donated.
- Telecommunications items that would improve communications to, from, and among the Cuban people.
- Items necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation and the safe operation of commercial aircraft engaged in international air transportation.
- Items necessary for the environmental protection of U.S. and international air quality, waters or coastlines, including items related to renewable energy or energy efficiency.
There is a case-by-case review policy for the following categories of items:
- Items to meet the needs of the Cuban people, including items for export or reexport to state-owned enterprises, agencies, and other organizations of the Cuban government that provide goods and services for the use and benefit of the Cuban people.
If you have additional questions please contact BIS’s Foreign Policy Division at 202-482-4252 or by email at Foreign.Policy@bis.doc.gov
License Exception for Gift Parcels
Gift Parcels and Humanitarian Donations (GFT) (Section 740.12(a) of the EAR) authorizes the export and reexport of certain donated items by an individual (donor), or a forwarding service acting on behalf of the donor, to an eligible recipient (donee). Gift parcels may contain a variety of items, including food, most medicines, medical supplies and devices, certain consumer communications devices, and other items of a type normally exchanged as gifts between individuals, subject to restrictions described in Section 740.12(a) of the EAR. Eligible recipients (donees) are individuals, other than certain Cuban Government or Cuban Communist Party officials, and charitable, educational, and religious organizations in Cuba that are not administered or controlled by the Cuban Government or the Cuban Communist Party. For example, hospitals or schools administered or controlled by the Cuban Government are not eligible recipients.
Donors may send one gift parcel per month per eligible recipient. The combined total domestic retail value of eligible items may not exceed $800 per gift parcel. However, the frequency and value limits do not apply to food donated in gift parcels. Items contained in gift parcels must also be in quantities normally given as gifts between individuals.
In addition, Section 740.12(b) of License Exception GFT authorizes the donation of eligible items to meet basic human needs provided the donors meet the eligible criteria and maintain a system of verification to ensure that the donated items are delivered to the intended recipients.Questions
For questions specific to Cuba, contact CubaHumanitarian@state.gov.