I visit Cuba regularly and now some friends of mine are considering a first-time trip there. Their travel agent has told them that Cuba has recently stopped stamping passports “…to avoid any problems for travellers flying to and from the US, whether around the dates of their trip to Cuba or at a later date.”

My understanding is that prior travel to Cuba makes VWP nationals ineligible for ESTA and I’m concerned that my friends have been given very bad advice.

I haven’t applied for an ESTA for years. Does the application make specific reference to prior travel to Cuba? Is there any way US Immigration would know about a trip to Cuba (eg from historic API) if an ESTA applicant’s passport had no stamp from Cuba, or an ESTA holder subsequently travelled to the US from their home country?

Note: I am asking about the possible consequences of following this advice. I’m not asking if it’s ok to try to circumvent US rules.

  • 2
    @phoog Because Cuba is on the US list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”? And because Cuba has recently changed its policy, there must be a reason for that? Way back they used to only stamp the paper tourist visa but that changed quite a while ago. This question relates to the topic but hasn’t been answered travel.stackexchange.com/questions/176673/…
    – Traveller
    Oct 8, 2022 at 15:50
  • 2
    Neither Cuba nor the State Sponsors of Terrorism list is mentioned on the State Department page linked above nor on CBP's page at cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/visa-waiver-program
    – phoog
    Oct 8, 2022 at 15:54
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    @phoog I am not sure how to link it but if you search Cuba in ESTA official site's FAQs they mention the consequence.
    – xngtng
    Oct 8, 2022 at 16:00
  • 5
    @phoog I just found this: ”How does Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism impact my travel to the United States using my approved ESTA? If a traveler is found to have visited a country designated as State Sponsor of Terrorism, the traveler is no longer eligible to participate in the Visa Wavier Program and must apply for a visa to enter the United States“ Right at the bottom of esta.cbp.dhs.gov/faq
    – Traveller
    Oct 8, 2022 at 16:40
  • 3
    @phoog Also reported in Cuban press in Sept 2022 diariodecuba.com/cuba/1663234610_42239.html
    – Traveller
    Oct 8, 2022 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


The advice on this site is consistently “never, ever, lie” on any visa application or to a border official, and rightly so.

Will the US automatically know about that travel? Probably not. Can they? Yes. Depending on the circumstances it can range from extremely easy (operations on a bank or credit card statement, photos on your social media accounts…) to quite difficult, but why take the risk?

Is the risk low? Probably. But the consequences can be quite severe. If they want to take the risk, they need to be aware of those consequences. Applying for a visa is annoying. Being banned for deception can be a much bigger problem, depending on their circumstances.

Not having the stamps makes it (in most cases) less obvious. It does not mean there’s no trace of the visit.

  • Does the ESTA application ask whether you have visited Cuba? Otherwise the applicant is not lying.
    – Miguel
    Oct 14, 2022 at 14:53
  • 1
    Indeed the current version of the ESTA only asks "_ Have you traveled to, or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011?_". But on the other hand the FAQ makes it clear one is not eligible for ESTA if one has visited Cuba. So no, they would not have lied on the ESTA application, but still, if for any reason the question comes up during immigration checks, one should not pretend they did not go to Cuba if they did.
    – jcaron
    Oct 14, 2022 at 15:26

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