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Can I go to the US if I’ve been to Cuba?

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Entry to the US will be affected if you visit there after visiting Cuba

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Cuba is one of the most dynamic destinations in the Caribbean. You can go soak up the history or spend your days lounging on the beach and then salsa dancing the night away, all with a mojito or two in hand. The UK does not impose any restrictions on entry to Cuba – and it is quite easy to get there as a tourist. However, you may encounter problems entering the United States after your visit, even in transit, unless you are traveling on a visa instead of the usual Esta. Here’s what you need to know before booking a trip to Cuba or the United States.

Main photo: Travelers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Alamy)

What is the background?

The frosty relationship between Cuba and the United States is long and complicated, but dates back to 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power. By making the country a socialist state, strengthening its ties with the Soviet Union, and introducing tariffs on American imports, Castro alienated Cuba from the United States. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, these actions eventually led to a trade embargo imposed on the country by President Kennedy – an embargo that has remained in place ever since.

Relations have thawed somewhat under President Obama, with cruise ships restarting and regular flights between the two nations. American travelers were also able to visit the Caribbean island for tourism purposes for the first time. But under President Trump, US policy towards Cuba has been reversed, meaning the ban on travel to Cuba for tourism purposes has been reinstated. While President Biden has yet to formally drop sanctions against Cuba, steps have been taken to facilitate travel between the two countries under certain circumstances.

Entry to the United States will be affected if you travel there after visiting Cuba
The Church and Monastery of Saint Francis in Trinidad, Cuba (Getty Images)

I have been to Cuba, am I excluded from the United States?

The UK has no sanctions against Cuba, but UK passport holders are still affected by US policy if they wish to travel there after visiting Cuba. This is because Cuba is currently on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. And under the terms of Esta (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), you cannot enter the United States using an existing Esta if you have already visited a country on this list, or apply for a new Esta again. . This prohibition includes transit, where you fly to another country.

You are not prohibited from entering the United States. But instead of a $21 Esta, you’ll need to apply for a visa at the US Embassy, ​​which will cost you £141.

Could other countries cause problems when visiting the United States?

There are currently three other countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism: North Korea, Iran and Syria. If you have visited any of these countries before, you will need to apply for a tourist visa to enter the United States.

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