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Alerts and Updates

U.S. Commerce and Treasury Departments Announce Wide-Ranging Changes to Further Ease Travel, Commerce and Investment Restrictions on Cuba

September 18, 2015

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U.S. companies will be allowed to establish subsidiaries or joint ventures, as well as open offices, stores and warehouses in Cuba.

On September 18, 2015, the Obama administration announced wide-ranging changes to loosen travel, commerce and investment restrictions on Cuba. The new rules, in the form of additional revisions to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations, allow American companies to open locations and hire workers in Cuba. U.S. companies will be allowed to establish subsidiaries or joint ventures, as well as open offices, stores and warehouses in Cuba. Additionally, the new rules will expand telecommunications services, facilitate financial transactions between the two countries, remove limits on the amount of money that can be brought to Cuba and allow "certain persons" to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba.

These changes will take effect when the regulations are published in the Federal Register on September 21, 2015, on the eve of Pope Francis' visit to Washington, D.C. The Pope, who is scheduled to visit Cuba on September 19–22, has been a central figure in establishing the reconciliation between the United States and the island nation.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said, "Today's announcement underscores the Administration's commitment to promote constructive change for the Cuban people. These regulatory changes build on the revisions implemented earlier this year and will further ease sanctions related to travel, telecommunications and internet-based services, business operations in Cuba, and remittances."

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said, "The regulations published today are designed to empower the Cuban people and support the emerging Cuban private sector, bringing us one step closer to achieving President Obama's historic policy goals. These actions build upon previous Commerce regulatory changes, and will ease travel restrictions on authorized travel, enhance the safety of Americans traveling to the country, and allow more business opportunities [between U.S. and Cuban companies]." Along with expanding our commercial engagement with the Cuban people, "[t]hese additional adjustments have the potential to stimulate long overdue economic reform across the country," noted Pritzker.

The revisions will be administered by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The pre-publication PDF version of the Treasury regulations can be found at 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 515. The pre-publication PDF version of the Commerce regulations can be found at 15 CFR parts 740, 746, and 772.

A summary of the revised regulations announced by the Departments of Commerce and Treasury—addressing travel; telecommunications and Internet-based services, commercial and financial transactions, physical presence and operations in Cuba, support for the Cuban people, remittances, legal services, civil aviation safety, gift imports, educational activities, ordinarily incident transactions, air ambulances and emergency medical services, humanitarian projects and supporting diplomatic relations—is available on the U.S. Department of Commerce website.  

For Further Information

If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Jose A. Aquino, Brian S. Goldstein, Lawrence W. Diamond, any of the attorneys in our Cuba Business Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact. 

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.