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Letter of Invitation

Fees paid to Cubans

On the Cuban side

Timing

CubaDesk at the State Department

Bringing Cubans to the US on official visits

The following applies to how the process used to work. Since the signing of a new law in April '02, all bets are off. The US government is prosecuting an undeclared a War on Culture and seems determined to make traffic from Cuba to the US almost impossible except for those who want to emigrate. If it can be done, expect the process to take at least 12 weeks on the American side and 4 weeks on the Cuban side. We track news of these developments on our Restrictions on Traveling from Cuba to the US page.

Bringing a Cuban group or person to the US is normally not that hard, except that no one tells you what unwritten rules to follow. We attempt to do so here, along with the usual disclaimer "don't blame me if any of this is not true!"   There are basically two aspects to this problem: the US side and the Cuban side.  On the US side, all the usual immigration regulations applie and then some.  On the Cuban side, you have the choice of doing a personal letter (permiso de salir) and a work letter (permiso de salir official).  Note that the US and Cuban approaches don't have to jive.  Usually, you as an institution issue an official letter of invitation to bring someone in on a B1 or some kind of limited work visa, then that person gets a permiso de salida official.  Or you issue a personal invitation and that person comes in under some personal visa, such as for a family visit.  However, it may be possible to issue a personal letter of invitation, get a personal permiso de salida, but be doing the paperwork for a work type visa on the US end.

Letter of Invitation

The Cuba Desk at State doesn't have any real guidelines for a letter, but experienced people know what it should contain.

The letter for a work type situation should be from a cultural organization, university, school, or other institution, the weightier the better, and should be written directly to the invitee or to the director of the group. It should contain:

  • the dates of the visit

  • an assertion that the organization will cover travel, food, and lodging - all expenses that might be incurred in the US

  • some recitation of what will be done. Cultural visits, lecture tours, presentations, etc are OK. Cubans do not enjoy consitutional protections and so have no right to make a tour giving political speeches...

If this is a personal letter of invitation, it has to be "legalized" by Cuban authorities either at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington DC or in person at a consultorio juridico internacional (international law office) in Cuba.  The Interests Section is swamped and not allowed to hire extra personel, so that can take a while. If in a hurry, have anyone who is a US resident (or a resident in the country where you are inviting the Cuban citizen) go to the consultorio with the invitee and legalize the document for $140.  This can also be done remotely by fax for $200. That then goes to Imigracion and they issue a permiso de salida in 2 weeks.

Fees paid to Cubans

Normally, Cubans cannot receive a salary or a fee. Now this has changed for academics, who can in fact receive a fee if they have the right kind of visa.  But musicians cannot. Their sponsor can, however. How much they then pay the Cuban is governed both by tax considerations and by Treasury regulations concerning Cuba. On the tax side, the Cuban(s) can receive the IRS maximum per diem, as defined for each US city, and so any fees can be spread out over their stay as a per diem, typically around $100 to $200 per day depending on the US location. There are charts for every city in the US which you can find by searching the internet for "government" and "per diem." Or you can go to this site, maintained by the government with all their rates: http://policyworks.gov/org/main/mt/homepage/mtt/perdiem/travel.shtml

These are the same charts you can use for filling out an IRS Section C form, where you can elect to count the per diem instead of providing actual receipts. In the IRS logic, you can deduct the per diem no matter how little you actually spend. Likewise, Cubans can keep the per diem no matter if they sleep under bridges or in people's homes - from a tax point of view.

Treasury regulations governing moneys to be paid Cuban citizen state that they can only be paid expenses, without defining any limits. Anyone can pay such expenses under the General License Treasury grants US citizens .  Intent appears to be key here: Treasury has accepted that expenses can include many thousands of dollars worth of medical care. But if the Cuban citizen is trying to save money and take back $500, they are in violation. Expect this to be enforced more severely under Shrub.

For Treasury info, see 

http://www.treas.gov/ofac/legal/index.html

especially 31CFR Part 515 for the general license to pay Cubans' travel expenses.

On the Cuban side

Cubans must have an exit permit, a permiso de salida, from their government. If they are coming "oficial," officially, they need to have their empresa's permission (their company). They may have to arrange to give a percentage of their per diem to their company. Some deal has to be struck.

If they come "personal," on a personal basis, they can stay 30 days or so, but at some point they have to pay $150/month to their government to extend their visa. That's the facts of life.

Timing

Be sure to do all this far in advance. You may want to pick start dates in advance of when you actually want the person to come. The State Department has a tendency to give visas at the last moment... And navigating both bureaucracies can take longer than you think.

CubaDesk at the Department of State

Natalie Torres
Phone: 202 647-4000

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