How Americans Get a Visa for Cuba

It’s simpler than it seems!

As of 2020, the United States allows American travelers to visit Cuba only under certain conditions. During the health crisis of this year, both countries have largely closed their borders to tourism however. Aside from the impacts of COVID-19, US policy still allows Americans to visit the country. This article provides insight to Cuba travel during “normal” conditions. For updates on travel during the health crisis, consult the travel advisories of the State Department and Cuban resources.

There are now 11 categories after President Trump removed the “people to people” category. Now, most travelers will indicate that they are visiting under the “support for the Cuban people” category. The full list of categories are:

  1. Family Visits
  2. Journalistic Activity
  3. Professional Research and Meetings
  4. Religious Activities
  5. Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Exhibitions, Athletic and Other Competitions
  6. Support for the Cuban People
  7. Humanitarian Projects
  8. Activities of Private Foundations, or Research or Educational Institutes
  9. Official Business of the U.S. Government, Foreign Governments, and Certain Intergovernmental Organizations
  10. Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information 
  11. Authorized Export Transactions

You first will book your flight like you would for any other travel. You will purchase your visa at a check in counter prior to the flight that will land in Cuba. In 2019, this cost $50. In exchange, you will receive three documents. One is your tourist visa card, another is a customs declaration card, and the final form is a short health survey. They take less than 10 minutes to fill out at the gate. When you arrive in Cuba, border control takes them and returns half of the tourist visa card to you for you to tuck into your passport until you leave the country. No stamps are left in your physical passport.

Watch the explanation:

What about when I come home?

I worried that U.S. border control would ask a lot of questions about what I had been doing in Cuba. In reality, they didn’t ask a single one. This is likely not a universal experience, so it is best practice to keep track of receipts if you can get them to prove you ate at privately owned restaurants or stayed with locals to “support the Cuban people” as you indicated to the U.S. government was the purpose of your travel.


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