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§515.574 Support for the Cuban People - How to Comply


Travellers under US jurisdiction heading to Cuba are probably more likely nowadays to self certify under the OFAC category “Support for the Cuban People”. By choosing this category your authorisation to travel is under an OFAC general license, so you do not need to “apply” to anyone for anything, but you do need to understand that OFAC’s authorisation places a number of conditions on what you do.
One of those conditions is that " the traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule."
This gets a bit tricky because OFAC does not define “full-time”.
Nor does it define “free time” or, separately “recreation” although we probably have a good idea of what is intended.
It’s also particularly tricky for me because I am awake 19 hours a day, which would mean that I would have to develop a full-time schedule of 9.6 hours each day, or I might breach the “free time or recreation” allocation.
Other interesting points to note are:

  • Every day is treated the same - you can’t assume if you are there for 7 days then 2 days are a weekend and are “free time” regardless
  • If you get off a cruise ship you might not be there long enough to develop a full-time schedule
  • You may not be in a physically fit state to achieve a full-time schedule
    So now let’s look at what the US could reasonably define as "full-time. An excellent read is here: https://www.thebalance.com/how-many-hours-a-week-is-full-time-employment-2063404
    So do we use a 30 hour working week?
    Or do we use 35, or 40?
    My suspicion is that the US would have to accept 30 hours - it translates to 6 hours a day - if the matter were ever contested. And note that the likelihood of it ever getting to this point is as good as your chance of winning a lottery.
    I recommend a more generous approach and that we use 7 hours a day as meeting the “full-time” aspect of the ruling, plus it gives you a near equivalent amount of “free time” to enjoy and get 10 hours sleep - all staying within the crazy rules.
    Let’s now begin our “schedule”.
    OFAC specify staying at casas as a compliant activity, so we must be able to include the time while we are “active” because it cannot be presumed they offer breakfast.
    7am -8am - preparation for breakfast
    8am - 9.30am - breakfast at casa and interaction with family
    9.30am - 10.30 am - walk to cadeca to exchange money into CUC
    10.30 - 12.30 - hire car and guide to enhance contact with the Cuban people
    12.30 - 2.pm - lunch at a paladar
    (Your 7 hours has been now achieved.)
    2.00pm - 4.00pm - siesta
    4pm - 10.59pm - free time
    So you can see that very little “activity” is needed to quickly fill up your compliant "full-time schedule."
    I know Spunky has been gathering many more activities to help you create a schedule for many other fun filled days.


Clear, simple and to the point!


And if you read it on the internet, especially on a travel forum, you can always count on it being factually correct.

Truth is there has never been an interpretation or clarification of any kind of the OFAC definition of “full time schedule”.


Bob, If there is ever a real definition of “Full Time”, they would have to define bed time, shower time, breakfast time, taxi time, etc, etc, etc, and I don’t think that will happen.

What JustRobme shows is there can be some creativity involved for those who feel they need to make an itinerary in advance. Have some fun with it. Even if it turns out to be a waste of time, you’ve gone through the exercise.
For now, many will wait and see if they are ever asked in the 5 years they are supposed to keep records, then put one together with help from here and from other travel forums.


Anyone wanting to get an idea about interpreting laws will find this an excellent read: https://harvardlawreview.org/2017/02/the-law-of-interpretation/
The point I made about a “6 hour day” rests with clear precedent. A problem of OFAC’s stipulation then becomes one where you would be in technical breach if your days in Cuba had you spending more than 6 hours enjoying “free time or recreation”.
My suspicion is that OFAC has no intention of confining travellers to “inaction” (read “sleep”) for 12 hours every day. That would render OFAC’s requirements as “unreasonable” and again there are established precedents which would deem this also unconstitutional (http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7340&context=penn_law_review).
The point of my post was to show those needing peace of mind how easy it is to be prepared wrt to OFAC’s stated need that travellers are compliant.


Those who care are left totally to speculation as OFAC has never had any clarification or definition, nor any enforcement.

But my speculation is when OFAC says “full time schedule” what they have in mind was “no time to do anything else”

My belief is that “show those needing peace of mind how easy it is to be prepared wrt to OFAC’s stated need that travellers are compliant” is a bridge too far. But everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.


Your “reality” differs from other’s actual practices. They are not mere “beliefs”.
Had I not been able to develop a compliant itinerary, my wife would not have recently travelled to Cuba with me. Again, that was my reality, not a belief.
A recent OP’s thread in TA had that traveller deciding not to go to Cuba via the USA because they effectively did not want the angst. It was a long thread and covered all sides of the situation. I sent the OP a PM and said “Tick the correct box and go …” - it didn’t resolve the OP’s concerns!
Some people might not like the rules governing travel to Cuba from the USA, but are willing to give them a semblance of respect, whether or not compliance is going to be enforced.
Finally, you can speculate on “full time schedule” implying “no time to do anything else”, but OFAC make it clear you can have “free time and recreation”.


Here is a good article on “Full Time”:


So using the journalist’s example, his “bare minimum” of 36 of compliant hours of activity in 6 days translates to 6 hours a day. So he would need to sleep for over 12 hours each day or be in breach of having more “free time or recreation” than is allowable. Let’s hope he ran himself ragged last November and slept like a hibernating bear.


In Canada, full time is defined as 30 hours to 44 hours per week for employment standards.


One may draw some conclusions about “full time schedule” based on what OFAC approved prior to 2015 when self certification was permitted for group trips using the “support of the Cuban people”, “people to people”, “educational”, “humanitarian”, and “religious” exemptions. Prior to self certification, groups were required to present a detailed schedule of activities to OFAC which was then reviewed and a specific license either issued via hard copy or denied.

It was acknowledged by tour organizers that the “full time schedule” being proposed needed to include all available time in order to be approved. All meals were with the group. The evenings were scheduled as informal group discussions of the days experiences. The group was permitted to attend a music club at night. The schedule basically required that travelers had no time away from the group and leader doing anything that did not relate to the specific OFAC exemption. There certainly was no X hours per day or until 2PM schedules.

In actual practice there were some travelers who slipped away from the “informal group discussions” at night or were out by first daylight to take a walk down the Malecon before 8AM breakfast. But this was never in the schedule presented to OFAC to obtain the license.

Everyone is free a few years later to redefine “full time schedule” but must realize prior to self certification, OFAC required a schedule consisting of every available hour be devoted to the specific exemption in order for the license to be approved.

FWIW: I was on one of these tours in 2009. I have lost the copy of the schedule used to obtain OFAC license but remember it well. I have also had a request for specific license denied by OFAC although for reasons unrelated to “full time schedule”


One needs to read OFAC today, and the examples they offer for compliance.
For example “Informal group discussions of the days experiences” would not be regarded as a compliant activity unless they involved actual interaction with Cuban people, and nor would all meals with the tour group unless they were at paladares.


OK Rob, let me make sure I understand you. You are contending that the completely unchanged OFAC regulation and interpretation of “full time schedule” which previously required no time for anything else in order for OFAC to issue a license can now be met with 7 hours a day dedicated to the exemption and the remaining time available for anything you want.

I sense your last post #11 is no more than red herrings.


I demonstrated by example what was compliant within the rules.
OFAC is crystal clear in stating there is “free time or recreation” available to the traveller, so long it is less than the time one would show in their full-time schedule.
I showed that a 7 hour day gave almost 7 hours of free time and, prima facie, anyone with such a schedule would be compliant.
I personally regard the requirement a nonsense and would have no difficulty mounting a case that would prove it imposed an unreasonable burden on a traveller and, as a matter of law, would render it unconstitutional.
There were no red herrings in #11 - as instead there are about a dozen examples in OFAC to assist travellers determine compliant activities.
My position is this: If you need the peace of mind of having a full-time schedule, ensure it shows that you could not have enjoyed more “free time or recreation” than compliant activities.
We both know enforcement is presently a bit of a joke, but in that improbable event you know what was required, and were asked to produce it, a seemingly compliant schedule is unlikely to draw any further attention,


Rob: can you give us a cite to that?


Please read #1.
What are you having difficulty understanding?


Rob, Give us the OFAC link to:
" the traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule."
To read through and understand.

The old system that Bob described had almost no free-time outside the approved tour activities. The new rules appear to have undefined free-time. Assuming the rules would ever be enforced.


This has been “explained” in #1, so if it is not clear to someone they can ask.


That refers to the old rules that Bob mentioned without any insight to what the current rules are.
Nice to see the inclusion of:
Note 2 to paragraph (a): Staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) are examples of activities that qualify for this general license. However, in order to meet the requirement for a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities.


Rob: I reread your reference once again in spite of previously reading it many times. I find it far from “crystal clear”. I find it to be vague and ambiguous, unsupported by any case law. My personal belief is that it was intentionally written to be vague so that it could never be enforced. While Obama could not actually permit travel because of the embargo, which he could not end, his administration simply wrote regulations that could never be enforced.

For those who just walked in during the middle of the movie, realize that these regulations have never been enforced in any way. Nor does the current political situation in the US appear that any resources will ever be available for enforcement. Realize OFAC has never had the resources to even collect those 12 exemption affidavits that many worry about so much much less review them. And going from there to actually questioning what travelers do in Cuba is a long long ways.