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Cuba: Can a U.S. Company Send a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident to Work There?

The door to Cuba for U.S. businesses is slowly opening. However, before you make plans for one of your U.S. employees to move to Cuba, you need to pay attention to the specifics of the U.S. regulations on that point. It is important to understand that U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and others subject to U.S. jurisdiction can only work in Cuba under certain limited circumstances provided in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, administered by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

These regulations provide for some situations in which companies may be able to establish a physical or business presence in Cuba and employ people subject to U.S. jurisdiction. For example, companies that have obtained a license or otherwise are authorized by the Department of Commerce to export or re-export goods to Cuba may establish a presence in Cuba to assemble those goods and may employ persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to do so. The regulations also allow companies in the news business (e.g., reporters working in a Cuba-based news bureau), the travel service industry, and companies that provide mail or parcel transmission services, telecommunications services, or internet-based services to establish a presence in Cuba and employ U.S. employees there. In addition, companies engaged in noncommercial activities intended to provide support for the Cuban people (such as human rights organizations) or in certain humanitarian projects directly benefiting the Cuban people may establish a presence in Cuba and place U.S. employees there.

All of these opportunities to employ U.S. citizens and residents in Cuba are subject to specific processes established by the government. Individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction remain prohibited from doing business or investing in Cuba unless it has been authorized by OFAC, as with the above-described limited authorizations pertaining to establishing a physical and business presence in Cuba. There may also be specific visa and work permit requirements of the Cuban government. Therefore, a U.S. employer intending to employ persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Cuba should carefully consider these regulations and any other legal hurdles well before any employee gets on a plane to Havana.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.