The United States Department of State on Thursday published the long-awaited rules defining who can travel freely to Cuba, accompanied by an increase in the amount of cash Americans could send to the Caribbean country.
After months of speculation that he was about to make dramatic changes in U.S.-Cuba relations, the new policies rescind more restrictive travel and remittances guidelines issued by former President George W. Bush in 2003.
In Januara, President Obama allowed a broader group of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba without first seeking permission from Washington. The new guidelines also allow Americans to send up to US$2,000 annually to Cuba, with a quarterly limit on the amount any American can send.
They can now send US$500 per quarter to “support private economic activity,” the White House said. The Clinton administration had set that figure at US$300 a quarter.
The new rules make it easier for U.S. schools, churches and cultural groups to visit Cuba, and boost the amount of money Americans can send to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country to support its growing private economy.
The announcement, which included an increase in the amount of cash Americans could send to Cuba, did not come with the fine print.
Until now, Cubans still had difficulty sending money through the money transfer company, Western Union, because the rules were not published.
The White House said that the changes to U.S.-Cuba policy are aimed at bolstering Cuba’s civil society.
The new rules also permit religious and educational groups to travel to Cuba for certain types of events or study without a specific license.
In addition, they allow, among other things, commercial marketing, sales negotiation, and accompanied delivery or servicing in Cuba of telecommunications-related items.