Suppose I am a U.S. citizen with dual citizenship with another country. Citizens of this second country are allowed to travel to Cuba. Suppose further that I live and work outside the United States and have a non-U.S. bank account containing funds in a currency other than dollars.

If I travel to Cuba using my passport from this 2nd country and using my non-U.S. financial resources, could I get into trouble upon return to the United States?

When I return, could I list Cuba under "countries visited" on the customs form without fear of repercussions, using the explanation that I traveled on a foreign passport and paid for my trip from foreign resources?

Are U.S./dual citizens subject to the Cuban embargo when traveling on their non-US passport?

  • Related
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 0:16
  • 2
    That post is related but doesn't address the dual nationality question directly. It indeed the problems are using U.S. travel documents and currency, then it seems using a 2nd passport and foreign funding source would be a legal workaround.
    – ABC
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 0:40
  • Yeah, that's why I just linked. Otherwise I'd have marked it as a duplicate ;)
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 0:40
  • Just wanted to clarify for future readers. (-:
    – ABC
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 0:41
  • This is no longer correct.
    – maudulus
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 7:45

5 Answers 5


The Cuba Information Manual ("The Definitive Guide to Legal and Illegal Travel to Cuba") says:

The embargo laws do not forbid U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba. They do, however, forbid U.S. citizens from spending money there without the proper permits, which essentially amounts to the same thing—unless you plan on begging your way around the country (from Cubans who don’t have much themselves) and sleeping on cardboard in the parks. Even if you brought your own food, you’d still violate the law by paying the twenty-five dollars to the immigration guy for your tourist card. You even have to pay to get out: twenty-five bucks for a “departure tax.”

The penalty for violating the embargo law is stiff: Up to ten years jail time, $250,000 in criminal fines, and $55,000 in civil fines for each violation. So that café con leche you drank at the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana could end up costing you a bundle if a U.S. customs officer finds the receipt in your pocket. The U.S. restrictions on spending money in Cuba apply to all citizens and residents of the United States—no matter from what country you travel to Cuba and even if you have dual citizenship. The restrictions also apply to non-U.S. citizens physically in the U.S.

  • Interesting. I know a friend (non US-citizen) living in the US who likes to visit Cuba a lot. She probably doesn't know that as a US resident she shouldn't.
    – Jonik
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 21:37
  • If she is not a citizen and not a permanent resident, once your friend leaves the US she is no longer subject to US law, so so she is allowed to visit Cuba as long as she starts from somewhere else (As long as she doesn't use any US bank accounts in the process, and probably as long as she doesn't book tickets from the US). Commented May 6, 2013 at 14:17
  • "The embargo laws do not forbid U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba (...)" At the time this answer was posted, these statements were not entirely true. US citizens are not only forbidden from spending money, they are also forbidden from receiving any kind of good or services, even for free. So even if you "beg around", you are still violating the law.
    – yms
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 21:00
  • This is horrible and absurd! No country should prohibit of their citizen from visiting anywhere, especially for countries that label themselves as "free" countries. Freedom of travel should be a basic right for a human being. Uncle Sam just spread his arm way too far.
    – silent
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 6:30

As an American citizen you are required to the follow the laws of the USA despite any other nationality that you may have. Most laws don't apply to citizens residing abroad, but some do. Perhaps the most significant is paying taxes on world-wide income, but also includes participating in the selective service (military draft), reporting foreign bank account balances and respecting embargoes on various countries. There also some recent laws which involve restrictions and punitive measures for US citizens engaging drug use, trading in pirated merchandise, or sexual activities with minors abroad, even when these practices would not violate laws in the country where the event happened.

Regarding Cuba, specifically the official regulations state:

They apply to all persons (individuals and entities) subject to U.S. jurisdiction –
including all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever located, all
persons in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S.
organizations throughout the world – as well as all persons engaging in
transactions that involve property in or otherwise subject to the jurisdiction
of the United States.
Unless authorized by a general or specific license, any person subject to U.S.
jurisdiction who engages in any Cuba travel-related transaction violates the
Regulations and may be subject to penalties.

In reality if you are not living in the USA and have no substantial contact such as bank accounts, residence, etc. nothing will probably happen, but it is not strictly legal.

EDIT: This post goes into more details: Are there any US laws that a US citizen MUST obey while traveling, even if those laws do not exist in the country he is traveling to?

  • That linked post says that it's illegal "for a U.S. person to use U.S. currency or a U.S. passport to travel to Cuba." I'm asking about a U.S. person using non-U.S. financial resources and a non-U.S. passport.
    – ABC
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 20:54
  • I updated my answer with a quote from the official rules. There is nothing in them that states they only apply to US financial resources (whatever that means).
    – user27478
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 6:34

As an American citizen, you are bound by the laws and embargos of the U.S. no matter which passport you present. So, you would technically be breaking the law by visiting Cuba and spending money.

As per the Treasury Cuba Sanctions

Unless authorized by a general or specific license, any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engages in any Cuba travel-related transaction violates the Regulations and may be subject to penalties.

Presenting your non-us passport may make the process of visiting even more painless should you decide to do it illegally since you won't have odd stamps in your U.S. passport.

  • Thank you for your answer, however I am looking for something more specific. "As an American citizen, you are bound by the laws and embargos of the U.S. no matter which passport you present." This may be true, but doesn't address the dual nationality question directly. For example, if the U.S. law really says you can't travel to Cuba using a U.S. passport, then you could travel legally using a 2nd passport, even if you were (also) a U.S. citizen.
    – ABC
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 0:42
  • 7
    @ABC, I added some more relevant info. The restriction is not on using a U.S. Passport to travel. It is about a person who is subject to U.S. laws engaging in commerce with Cuba.
    – jcern
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 0:47
  • I'm still not convinced of this interpretation. I'm really looking for an authoritative answer, in the form of a Government publication directly addressing the dual-nationality question, or (2) someone's first-hand experience as a dual national traveling to Cuba. I appreciate your quoting the Treasury Cuba sanctions, but I don't trust your interpretation of them.
    – ABC
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 20:51
  • 4
    I highly doubt you will find anything in the embargo text or other U.S. publications specifically addressing dual citizens and cuba travel. Most likely, you would have to parse through the laws on dual citizenship and then those on the embargo. While looking for their number, you even find this: travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1753.html which says that dual citizens "are required to obey the laws of both countries". However, for absolute clarity, your safest and easiest bet would be to call the State Department (1.202.647.4000) and just ask.
    – jcern
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 21:32
  • 3
    @ABC I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how dual-citizenship works. When you are a dual citizen, you are subject to the laws of both countries--you don't get to pick which rules are most convenient for you depending on the situation. So, in this case, if you are the citizen of another country that allows travel to Cuba (every country besides the USA!) that doesn't give you permission to break the laws of the USA which you are subject to as a citizen.
    – user27478
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 6:38

As an U.S. citizen the only way to enter in Cuba legally to the U.S eyes is by using the “people-to-people” program authorized by the OFAC. These trips are not touristic.

It’s then illegal for you as U.S. citizen to enter Cuba no matter which passport to use, however you may enter and U.S. government will never know, but that will be illegal:

If you fly to country X, withdraw some cash, and then buy plane tickets to Cuba; when entering Cuba you can present your U.S. passport or your X passport, it doesn’t matter, your passport will not be stamped unless you request to customs to stamp it. You spend only cash in Cuba. Then you come back to country X. When you go back to the U.S, they will never know you visited Cuba. But that’s illegal.

  • "It’s then illegal for you as U.S. citizen to enter Cuba no matter which passport to use" -- [citation needed]!
    – ABC
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 20:48
  • This is not true; there are many ways for US citizens to travel to Cuba legally besides the "people-to-people" program. See treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/… Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 2:08

Any American citizen (even if you have dual citizenship you are still an American citizen) requires a license to travel to Cuba (http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba.pdf).

There was a loop hole that allowed American's to travel to Cuba without a license while being "fully hosted", i.e. having someone not subject to US jurisdiction pay for everything related to your trip (http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/tab4.pdf), but this has since been removed (http://www.futurodecuba.org/CUBAN%20ASSETS%20CONTROL%20REGULATIONS.htm).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .