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I'm looking at flights from Mexico City to Paris, and the cheapest option has a single stop in Havana, Cuba. As a U.S. citizen, can this get me into trouble--specifically when returning to the U.S.?

The flight is on Cubana Aviación, a Cuban airline.

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Does this stopover include clearing customs and immigration? If not, even though you have landed on the island, you haven't actually entered the country, and with the usual IANAL disclaimer, you should be okay. –  mindcorrosive Aug 5 '13 at 17:31
    
I have no idea what the policy is on that in Cuba. –  Flimzy Aug 5 '13 at 17:34
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But, as I understand it, the rules are against commerce with Cuba, not actually with entering the country. As such, purchasing a flight that goes through Cuba might technically be a violation... since doing so means giving money to a Cuban airline/airport, right? –  Flimzy Aug 5 '13 at 17:35
    
Technically, it's the airline trading with the Cuban organization, not yourself directly (unless you are buying souvenirs from the airport). It is them that have to comply with US export restrictions (if subject to US jurisdiction) in this case. –  mindcorrosive Aug 5 '13 at 17:44
    
Nope, not for the Cubans. They even issue your Visa on a little card so you can throw it away before you return to the US...not that you would do that, right? –  Stephen P. Aug 5 '13 at 19:21
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1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

US citizens are not permitted to travel to Cuba without special permission from the Department of Treasury. This also includes "payment for air travel to Cuba".

Source: U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Part 515 Cuban Assets Control

Whether you get caught or not is another matter (they won't stamp your passport), but personally I wouldn't risk it just to save a few bucks on airfare. A long-haul flight on Cubana doesn't sound that comfortable to me and if you end up getting stuck in Havana due to delayed flights, etc. things could get complicated if you want to avoid entering the country.

You also need to be careful how you pay for tickets. If you pay with a US-based credit card for example, and they find out (or suspect) the payment is for a travel to Cuba, the transaction will be blocked and you will probably lose the money and perhaps find yourself in other trouble. Even if your credit card is from a foreign bank, you might find that the transactions get cleared or pass through the USA anyway, putting you at risk to having them blocked.

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