American/Canadian visiting Cuba

As some of you know, I hold dual citizenship in the U.S. and in Canada.

If I were to visit Cuba on my Canadian passport, and spending only Canadian dollars, would I be violating any U.S. laws or restrictions?

Probably not, but you can’t spend Canadian dollars there. You’ll have to exchange your CAD to USD, and then when you land, exchange your USD for CUCs. They have a dual currency system to rip off the tourism, and it’s leveraged on the USD.

I am a U.S. citizen and was able to go to Cuba on a research Visa in March 2007. Oh Cuba doesn’t except credit/ATM cards from US banks, so either bring a buttload of cash or get a Canadian credit card.

My understanding is that as a U.S. citizen, I am not allowed to spend US$ in Cuba. I would not have special permission, as you did. I would go as a Canadian tourist. Do tourists from all countries have to change their money to US$ before they arrive?

Humm… my memory is getting fuzzy already. I am looking online and it says Cuba will accept the EUR, CAD, USD , and British Pound to exchange into CUCs. Sorry for the misinformation. But more info about the CUC: the CUC isn’t an internationally recognized currency… it’s basically a fake currency Fidel invented to keep Cuba afloat. The exchange rate for USD is $1 = 1 CUC, plus a 20% fee. Cubans use a totally different currency, the Peso.

Cuba is aware of the embargo from the U.S. so even Americans who go there illegally - either flying through Mexico or Canada, Cuban customs won’t stamp a US passport. Hell, I had a valid visa to go, and they still didn’t stamp my passport. I’m assuming you are you planning to fly to Cuba from Canada? You’ll be fine. You won’t get in trouble, although you might be put on some sort of list anyways. If you ever get a job requiring security clearance, this could be an issue.

To sum it up, obviously the government knew I was going to spend USD there and nothing happened.

My guess is that since it’s illegal for US citizens to go to Cuba without special permission, and since you ARE a US citizen, then dual nationality or no dual nationality, it would be considered breaking US law. But if you do everything through your Canadian passport and don’t say anything to the US authorities about it, then no harm done even if you spend US$. “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” so to speak.

I’m under the impression that unless you are traveling under the special circumstances mentioned on the State Department web site, it would be illegal, the relevant information here:

I’d interpret it as though it would be illegal for you. Americans do go, and usually enter from Canada or Mexico. It’s just a hassle because they can trace your credit card transactions. If you can figure out the cash thing, go for it.

Well, this is where I’m confused. From this site, it appears that travel to Cuba is not per se illegal by U.S. citizens. What does seem to be restricted is the spending of US$, especially as the license is controlled by the U.S. Treasury. Now, unless the Treasury can control my spending of non U.S. currencies, seems to me I’d be fine. I could be wrong, which is why I ask.

On preview, Darryl Lict beat me to the cite.

I’ll add here that I have no intention of violating U.S. law. I don’t care if I get on a list, as I will never accept a government/security clearance job from either country; that could endanger my citizenship from the other. I am basically wondering if there is a loophole here.

No, I think it’s illegal. IN the first paragraph there, it says:
“The Regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed to engage in any travel-related transactions related to travel to, from, and within Cuba.”

Then the second paragraph starts out:
“Licenses are granted to the following categories of travelers …” and then goes n to describe the type of person who can be “licensed” (read: “granted permission to travel there.”)

I think that as long as it is illegal for you as a US citizen to travel there, then the US is not going to care that it’s legal for you as a Canadian citizen to travel there; they could pop you for it. IF you let it be known. I say use your Canadian passport, keep quiet about it, and all will be well.

Bump. In the hopes of getting the weekday crowd’s attention.

Siam Sam, the quotes you have say “travel-related transactions” (from the link in Frank’s post from the state department - at the page the term “transactions” is consistently used.) I read that as saying that you can’t spend money for things related to travel. Not that you can’t travel there.

That’s also what I’ve read in several travel-related sites and books ( for example this website: )

My friend has a dual Canadian-American citizenship and we went to Cuba together last year. The difference, though, is that she was born in the US but has lived in Canada her entire life. She was asked about it when she went through customs, but otherwise had no problems at all. We were able to get cash through our Canadian credit cards, but I very much doubt American bank/credit cards would work (in fact, I seem to remember being explicitly warned that they wouldn’t!)

IIRC, the CUC isn’t equal to US$ anymore… It’s more like 1.12 US for 1 CUC, I think.

The other thing you can do is take 10 weeks off and enroll in the proper educational institution.

My local Community College offers a course, and I actually seriously thought about taking it. Here’s a list of programs offering and opportunity to study in Cuba. In any case, I’d like to go before relationships are normalized and avoid the hoards of American tourists. I’m pretty sure there’s already tons of Euros and Canadians.

I don’t see how you having Canadian citizenship matters at all. I am an American, but I could easily get Canadian Dollars in Canada and try to spend them in Cuba.

Well, this is exactly where I feel as if I am dancing on the head of a pin. Yes, you could do that, but as an American citizen, I think you would be breaking the law, and could be subject to penalties upon your return. (As mentioned above, with U.S. citizens travelling from Mexico or Canada.)

If I travel as a Canadian citizen, spending only Canadian money along the way, am I liable, as a U.S. citizen, to the U.S. Treasury restrictions on “travel transactions”?

Magic 8-Ball the answer is unclear. :slight_smile:

Were I willing to give up my U.S. citizenship, the answer would be clear. I have no intention of doing so. Therefore, I must obey both Canadian and U.S. law in order to not get thrown in jail at the border.

Frank, as a US Citizen it is illegal for you to spend any money in Cuba. That includes Canadian currency but I don’t know if it includes fake money such as Canadian Tire Money.

</sarcasm on>

However more importantly you are asking how to do something prohibited by US Law on a message board based in the US. have you checked with a moderator to see if your question goes against the board policy

</sarcasm off>

MannyL, did you miss the part where Frank said “I’ll add here that I have no intention of violating U.S. law.”

Cite? Which, if you haven’t noticed, is what I’m asking for.

In fact, I am not asking how to evade U.S. law. I am asking if my proposed tourism in Cuba as a Canadian citizen is, in fact, subject to U.S. law due to my status as a U.S. citizen. Please read for comprehension in future.

I was recently on a trip to Cuba, under an OFAC specific license. As best I understand it, MannyL is correct – an American citizen may NOT spend money in Cuba or do business with Cuban nationals, regardless of the currency used, except under a general license as given in the law or under an OFAC specific license. See the OFAC web site.

I strongly suggest you check with OFAC since you have dual citizenship. If you were pure Canadian, you’d have no problems.

That said, if the legalities work in your favor, take Euros. I don’t know what the conversion is from the Canadian dollar to the CUC, but the US dollar loses 20% off the top, and the Euro probably doesn’t.

Also, pack light - the licensed airlines that fly the Miami - Havana route have a strict 20 kg (45 lbs.) free baggage allowance.

And do NOT tell the airline what’s in your luggage, especially if it’s a bag full of charitable donations. It WILL be impounded. I found out the hard way.