Treasury Issues Updated Frequently Asked Questions on Banking, Remittances with Cuba

With the changing nature of U.S.-Cuban relations, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, an office of the U.S. Treasury Department that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions, recently provided updated frequently asked questions on amendments to the Cuban assets control regulations. The changes went into effect on Oct. 17.

In this article, we provide a brief overview of some aspects of the recent guidance. It is important to note, however, the following information does not have the force of law, and it does not supplement or modify existing executive orders, statues or regulations related to Cuba. The embargo remains in place and most transactions remain prohibited.

Yet, there are targeted regulatory changes that are significant and credit unions, especially those that serve or are looking to serve Cuban populations in the U.S., need to be aware of these changes as they relate to remittances and banking.

The information below is not all-inclusive and credit unions should review the relevant statutes, regulations and executive orders and, if appropriate, consult with legal counsel to ensure full compliance.

Remittances

  • Pursuant to general license, credit unions, banks and money service transmitters are permitted to process authorized remittances to or from Cuba without a specific license, subject to the recordkeeping and reporting requirements set forth in 31 CFR §515.572(b). For a complete description of what the OFAC general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.572(a)(3).
  • The dollar limits on generally licensed donative remittances that may be sent to a Cuban national were removed, though prohibitions on government officials and members of the Cuban Communist Party remain in effect.
  • n OFAC issued a general license authorizing the unblocking and return of remittances that were previously blocked for exceeding the previous per quarter limits on authorized periodic remittances to non-family members, provided that these remittances would have been authorized under the current regulations.

Banking

  • Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may engage in transactions in U.S. dollars in Cuba, or with Cuban nationals, so long as the activity is authorized under the Cuban assets control regulations.
  • Authorized travelers are allowed to use credit and debit cards while in Cuba. However, individuals should check with their institutions to determine if the institution has established the necessary mechanisms for its issued credit or debit cards to be used in Cuba. For more information, see 31 CFR §515,506(c)(5) and 515.584(c). It should be noted that OFAC regulations do not require financial institutions or credit card companies to accept, maintain or facilitate authorized financial relationships or transactions.
  • Credit unions are permitted to maintain accounts for certain Cuban nationals present in the U.S. in a non-immigrant status or pursuant to other non-immigrant travel authorization. Although the account may remain open while the Cuban national is not in the U.S., access to such accounts must be limited to when the Cuban national is lawfully present in the U.S. For a complete description of what the OFAC general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR §515.571(a)(5).
  • Credit unions are authorized to open and maintain accounts in the U.S. for Cuban nationals in Cuba to receive payments in the U.S. for transactions authorized pursuant to, or exempt from the prohibitions of, the Cuban assets control regulations and to remit such payments back to Cuba. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR §515.584(h).

These are just some of the regulatory changes recently made. For the complete list of FAQs, go to http://go.usa.gov/xkG42.

For additional information, visit the Treasury Department’s Cuban Sanctions Resource Center at http://go.usa.gov/xkG4c.