U.S. Relations With Cuba

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Fact Sheet
September 7, 2016

More information about Cuba is available on the Cuba Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


At the height of the Cold War, and following the Cuban government's expropriation of U.S. properties and its move toward adoption of a one-party system of government, the United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1960 and broke diplomatic relations in 1961. On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations. A major step in this process was reached on July 1, 2015, when President Obama announced the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, effective July 20 with the re-opening of embassies in both countries. President Obama’s trip to Cuba in March 2016 marked a historic milestone in the normalization process between the United States and Cuba. 

U.S. policy toward Cuba is focused on supporting our values, such as freedom of speech and assembly and the ability to access information, through engagement. The U.S. government is reaching out to the Cuban people by fostering increased people-to-people exchanges, encouraging the development of telecommunications and the internet, and creating opportunities for U.S. businesses to support the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector. Through the opening of embassies, the United States is now able to engage more broadly across all sectors of Cuban society, including the government, civil society, and the general public. The United States is committed to supporting safe, orderly, and legal migration from Cuba through the effective implementation of the 1994-95 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords. 

Bilateral Economic Relations

Although economic sanctions remain in place, the United States is one of Cuba’s primary suppliers of food and agricultural products, with exports of those goods valued at $149 million in 2015. The United States is also a significant supplier of humanitarian goods to Cuba, including medicines and medical products. Remittances from the United States, estimated $3 billion for 2015, play an important role in Cuba's state-controlled economy. Since January 2015, the United States announced five rounds of regulatory changes that, among other things, remove limits on donative remittances to Cuban nationals, authorize expanded commercial exports from the United States of certain goods and services, permit U.S. institutions to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions, and permit the use of U.S. credit and debit cards by authorized travelers to Cuba. Five U.S. telecommunications firms have reached agreements with the Cuban government on direct interconnection for voice and data services since re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited, and U.S. federal regulations restrict travel to Cuba to licensed travelers engaged in certain specified activities. In January 2015, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued general licenses in the 12 categories of travel authorized by law, meaning that those travelers who qualify under these licenses do not need to wait for U.S. government approval in order to travel. If one’s travel does not qualify for a general license, individuals would need to apply for a specific license. Further information on the licensing process can be obtained OFAC or at its website. Those contemplating travel to Cuba should consult the consular information page about the country. Following the resumption of the U.S. – Cuba Migration Talks to discuss implementation of the 1994-95 Migration Accords, in July 2013 the State Department announced the extension of the duration of certain non-immigrant visas for qualified Cuban travelers from six months (single entry) to five years (multiple entry).

Other transactions by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest are also prohibited unless licensed by OFAC. For more information on transactions, please consult OFAC’s website.

Certain exports to Cuba must be authorized by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). Further information on exports to Cuba can be found at the BIS website. Most imports from Cuba and other Cuban-origin goods (e.g., merchandise purchased or otherwise acquired in Cuba or of Cuban origin acquired in a third country) are prohibited, although importation of Cuban-origin information and informational materials (for example, publications, films, posters, photographs, tapes, compact discs, and certain artwork) are exempt from the prohibition. Moreover, certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs are eligible for importation into the United States – for more information, see the State Department’s Section 515.582 List. Further information on imports from Cuba can be found at the OFAC website.

Cuba's Membership in International Organizations

Cuba has an activist foreign policy and aims to find new sources of trade, aid, foreign investment, and political support. Cuba and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Cuba was excluded from participation in the Organization of American States in 1962. That exclusion was lifted in 2009, with its future participation to be determined through a dialogue initiated by Cuba and in accordance with the practices, purposes, and principles of the OAS. In April of 2015, Cuba attended the Summit of the Americas for the first time, where President Raul Castro met with President Obama in the first face-to-face meeting between leaders of the United States and Cuba in more than 50 years.  

Bilateral Representation

The Charge d’Affaires ad interim of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, is Jeffrey DeLaurentis; other principal officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List

Cuba is represented in the United States by the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.

More information about Cuba is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Cuba Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Cuba Page
U.S. Embassy Havana
USAID Cuba Page
History of U.S. Relations With Cuba
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page
Bureau of Industry and Security Cuba
Travel and Business Information