Quick Note: this was the process for United Airlines – I have heard that most airlines are similar.
As a very privileged American I will own that I used to have the mindset that if a country requires a visa I am not trying hard to go there. The wording always confused me and I am a nervous wreck that I just paid so much money for a flight and a hotel only to be denied entry because of bureaucratic tape.
Luckily I am not that way anymore.
This cuban visas was a different story. I was SO nervous the day before our flight. Matt and I even joked (slash made a tentative plan) that if our visa got denied we would just head upstate for the week.
It turned out to be really easy. Below is a step by step guide on how to get your Cuban visa.
According to The White House in order to gain entry into Cuba you have to pick from the below list of 12 reasons why you are visiting the country.
1. Family visits
2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3. Journalistic activity
4. Professional research and professional meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
8. Support for the Cuban people
9. Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
You need to pick one of those reasons.
We picked #8 - Support for the Cuban People - mostly because it is vague. Also many of Matt's colleagues have traveled to Cuba #8 as well. They said it was a good reason and was never really questioned.
They did suggest signing a simple affidavit before leaving just incase we were asked for one by the visa agency. We did, and I have attached at the bottom the exact wording we used on our affidavit. He works at a law firm so we spent lunch the day before we left signing and notarizing it in his office. You can go to you local bank and easily get your own notarized.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. We entered the terminal and were happy to find that an entire side was dedicated to United’s Cuba bound flights.
The first guard/employee asked if we already had a visa, we told her no and she gave us a small laminated card that said 'No Visa' and sent us to another line. In that line they directed us to the Visa desk and we handed over our passports. The worker (who looked to work for a travel agency) filled out our name and address in the computer and also handwrote our info on a physical list. She asked what our reason for going to Cuba was. We both said support for the Cuban people our affidavits in hand ready to be presented. She simply said “Ok, and are you paying cash or credit?” We handed over our credit cards (even if you are flying together you have to pay separate) and paid the $75 fee each for a visa. We then were given a small square slip of paper and she explained we had to fill this out very carefully before debarking the plane in Cuba. If we messed up we could not get another one.
From there we took a small step over to the check in counter and got our boarding passes from a friendly United agent.
All in all it was a very easy process and took a total of 15 minutes total.
All that being said, again we personally used number 8 – support for the Cuban people – but while we were in Cuba we met many other American tourists who went under religious activities (6), educational services (5) or public performances (7). None of them were questioned or asked to provide proof.
At least for now it seems like a very straightforward process to head to Cuba. So go before that changes!!
If you have any more specific questions about Visas don’t be afraid to leave them in the comments or send me an email! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our Affidavit Wording
TRAVEL AFFIDAVIT- General/Specific Licenses
I understand that travel transactions related to Cuba must be directly incident to one of the self-authorizing general license purposeful travel categories or travel authorized under the auspice of a specific license granted on a case-by-case basis. Under current US travel restrictions with respect to Cuba, travel-related transactions are prohibited except for the following categories & that by signing my name at the bottom of this Affidavit, I declare that I fall under the category I have described below.
9. SUPPORT FOR THE CUBAN PEOPLE
515.574. I am a person whose travel to Cuba is directly incident to promoting independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba and the schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full time schedule.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.