Can a US/Canadian dual citizen travel in Cuba without a licence?
January 26, 2009 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Can a US/Canadian dual citizen travel in Cuba without a licence?

If someone is a dual Canadian/US citizen, with valid passports from both countries, can they visit Cuba (leaving from Canada)?

The sense I get is that it’s very possible - fly from Canada, on a Canadian passport - all no probem. But the sense I also get is that technically, it might still be a violation of US law, since US citizens (I think) are barred from taking vacations in Cuba, even if they’re also citizens of other countries.

So… let me ask:

- Is my understanding of the law right? Is it illegal under US law for a dual-citizen to travel to Cuba?

- Regardless of the letter of the law, is there any reason to actually worry about the practical consequences of this, if the person in question travels on their Canadian passport?

I gather the embargo is actually about *spending money* in Cuba, not actually about traveling there.

So- would it help matters if the Dual-citizen was traveling with a Canadian, and the Canadian paid for everything?
(a similar question was asked here but this is a little different),
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I gather the embargo is actually about *spending money* in Cuba, not actually about traveling there.

It's the Trading with the Enemy Act (roll eyes here), and what is illegal is for an American resident to spend money in Cuba (or otherwise add money to the Cuban economy). This is a violation of American law (not Cuban, Canadian, or international.) This includes money paid to Cuban airlines or hotels. Technically, flying to Cuba from the US is not illegal, but you'd need to get an US "cultural permit" first, or otherwise explain how you're going to not spend money. Not recommended. :)

If you travel on your Canadian passport, though, it's hard to imagine any way you could ever be prosecuted for anything. Technically, yes, as an American resident you should not be spending money (benefiting Cubans/the Cuban economy), but.... can't see how that would matter, anyway, since it's a cash economy -- you won't be able to use US credit cards, even, so there's no real trail.

Yes, in a worst-case, you can always explain that your trip was at no cost (a gift?) and you spent no money in Cuba... you'd be lectured that you should have applied for the permit first, and in theory subject to a possible $5000 fine that is applied randomly, if history is any guide, but you could dispute anyway. But again... I can't see when or where this conversation with a US authority could even happen, or how they could ever prove their case. Cuba sure doesn't care, Canada doesn't care, and as far as the US is concerned, you're visiting Toronto (or whatever) for two weeks.

Heck, even if you get caught with a case of Cuban cigars back in US customs... they could have come from Canada, right? Every 7-11 has them in Canada.

(Also: It's one of the most remarkable places left on earth, and it's important to see and feel it as much as you can, I believe, before it crumbles and becomes yet another McDonald's-ified plastic island full of Mabel, George and their nine very obnoxious kids from Iowa.)

Anonymous should memail me for more info that I won't type here. :)
posted by rokusan at 7:47 AM on January 26, 2009

I'm in the same boat. I went to Cuba from Toronto a few years ago on my Canadian passport. No problem at all. I have traveled to the US on both passports since then. No problem.

My mother, who only has an American passport went with us and had no problems. They didn't scan her passport, or stamp it.

This all seemed very matter-of-fact at passport control at the Varadero airport. They're used to American visitors.

Go. Enjoy. Havana is beautiful.
posted by thenormshow at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2009

Yes, I did the same thing and I never had a problem.
posted by number9dream at 8:53 AM on January 26, 2009

Technically it is illegal and you can be fined. Legally you can't even buy Cuban cigars in Canada without being fined. It isn't likely you could be found out although I believe the Treasury Dept can monitor credit card transactions.
posted by JJ86 at 11:13 AM on January 26, 2009

The restriction doesn't apply only to U.S. residents. It applies as well to all U.S. citizens, including those who live outside the U.S., but you can probably get away with it.

Note that if they feel like it, the U.S. border guards can go through all of your vacation photos. It may be prudent to have them somewhere other than on your person or in your luggage when you cross the border.
posted by oaf at 11:19 AM on January 26, 2009

I meant resident as more expansive than citizen, oaf... but now that I think of it, yeah, one is not a subset of the other. Bad venn diagram in my head.
posted by rokusan at 11:38 AM on January 26, 2009

The same restrictions that apply to U.S. citizens apply to U.S. permanent residents.
posted by halogen at 12:43 PM on January 26, 2009

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