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Travel to Cuba

U.S. government restrictions on travel to Cuba require that all travelers to Cuba from U.S. institutions travel under specific licenses or categories. Most Cornell travelers to Cuba fall under two categories: educational tours or professional research or conferences. We can help you navigate the shifting restrictions and legislation surrounding Cuba travel. It will take a little more time and care, so plan early to help ensure successful travel to Cuba.

Key Steps in Planning Your Trip to Cuba

1. Ensure your travel falls under permitted travel category (see below). If you are a Cornell student, faculty, or staff, you must meet the qualifications to be eligible for travel to Cuba. 

2. Apply for approval to travel. Send an email to the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at, with a copy to the Export Controls Office at Please allow at least one month for processing the approval and getting the appropriate paperwork in place, especially if your trip involves the import/export of technology. In addition to this application, international students, scholars and employees may be required to apply for visas to Cuba in their home country.

Include the following information in your email: 

  • Your full name and NetID.

  • Your status (faculty, staff, undergraduate student, or graduate student; full-time or part-time; and temporary or permanent).

  • Dates of travel in Cuba (from [date] to [date]).

  • The relevant paragraph that describes the purpose of your travel from the list of qualifying activities below.

  • A brief description (or file attachments) of your intended business in Cuba.

  • Name and address of the hotel/lodging. 

You’ll be notified once you’ve received approval to travel to Cuba. For record keeping purposes, the Vice Provost for International Affairs will issue an official memo for your trip, stating the basis for the travel. No other member of the University community, including chairs, deans, or department heads, may provide a verification letter for travel to Cuba.

3. Complete Cuba Travel Certification Form for insurance purposes. Download the form here (Cornell NetID required) and email the completed form to Please allow at least two weeks for processing.

4. Register your travel. All students, staff, and faculty are required (per Policy 8.5) to add their Cornell-related international travel plans to the Cornell International Travel Registry

5. Prepare to travel. Be sure to bring the following with your passport/travel documents: Official OVPIA letter, a detailed agenda/itinerary for the entire stay in Cuba, and visa (if required).

6. Upon return, keep your receipts. OFAC regulations state that travelers are responsible for maintaining a record of their trip receipts and financial documents for at least 5 years. Before engaging in Cornell travel to Cuba, read the "Records and recordkeeping" requirements set forth under the Office of Foreign Assets Control Recordkeeping Requirements (31 C.F.R. §501.601 and §501.602) and General Cuba license, 31 CFR 515.565(a).

Permitted Activities - Cuba General License for Educational Activity

The general license (published by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control as part of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations) authorizes accredited U.S. graduate and undergraduate degree-granting academic institutions to engage in Cuba travel-related transactions incident to certain educational activities. 

If you are a Cornell student, faculty, or staff, you must meet the qualifications outlined in 31 CFR §515.565 Educational Activities or § 515.564 Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba to be eligible for travel to Cuba.

To meet the qualifications, your travel to Cuba must be under the auspices of Cornell University. In addition, it must be related to at least one of the following:

  • Participation in a Cornell-sponsored, structured, educational program in Cuba as part of a course offered for credit. 

  • Noncommercial academic research in Cuba specifically related to Cuba and for the purpose of obtaining an undergraduate or graduate degree. 

  • Participation in a formal course of study at a Cuban academic institution, provided the formal course of study in Cuba will be accepted for credit toward your graduate or undergraduate degree.
  • Teaching at a Cuban academic institution if you are regularly employed in a teaching capacity at Cornell University. 
  • Sponsorship of a Cuban scholar to teach or engage in other scholarly activity at Cornell University (in addition to those transactions authorized by the general license contained in § 515.571).
  • Sponsorship or co-sponsorship of noncommercial academic seminars, conferences, symposia, or workshops related to Cuba or global issues involving Cuba, and attendance at such events by Cornell faculty, staff, or students.
  • Establishment of academic exchanges (on behalf of Cornell) and joint non-commercial academic research projects with universities or academic institutions in Cuba.
  • Provision of standardized testing services—including professional certificate examinations, university entrance examinations, language examinations, and related preparatory services for such exams—to Cuban nationals, wherever they are located.
  • Provision of internet-based courses—including distance-learning and Massive Open Online Courses—to Cuban nationals, wherever located, provided that the course content is at the undergraduate level or below.
  • The organization of, and preparation for, activities described above by employees of Cornell.
  • Facilitation by an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction, or a member of the staff of such an organization, of licensed educational activities in Cuba on behalf of Cornell, provided that: (1) the organization is directly affiliated with Cornell; and (2) the organization facilitates educational activities that meet the requirements of one or more of the general licenses set forth in §515.565(a)(1) through (3) and (6).

Professional research and professional meetings may be permissible travel purposes in certain circumstances – please contact the Export Controls Office for information about this requirement or other types of qualified travel. 

Note that the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sets the rules and restrictions which govern travel to Cuba, and specifically prohibit all tourist-oriented activities in Cuba. In special circumstances and if the activity qualifies, Cornell University may consider applying for a specific license for proposed educational or research activities.

These guidelines apply to all students, faculty and staff at Cornell University regardless of whether they hold dual citizenship or are nationals of countries that do not restrict travel to Cuba.

For your reference, you may want to visit the United States Department of the Treasury's "Resource Center" on Cuba sanctions: Guidance Regarding Travel Between the United States and Cuba.