• ESTA holders who have traveled to Cuba on or after January 12, 2021, may see their ESTA authorizations revoked
• Revocation of the ESTA does not bar travel to the US, but those travelers will now be required to first obtain a B-1/2 visa for business or pleasure travel to the US
On July 6, 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced changes to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The ESTA program (formerly the “visa waiver” program) allows business and pleasure travelers from certain designated countries (primarily in EU, UK, and certain parts of the APAC region) to travel to the United States under a simple electronic authorization rather than obtaining a “visitor” (B-1/2) visa through a consular application abroad—a process which can take several weeks, months, or even years.
Under CBP’s announcement, ESTA holders who have been present in Cuba on or after January 12, 2021, will be ineligible for travel to the United States under the ESTA/visa waiver program provisions and the ESTA authorization will be revoked. Impacted travelers will be notified via the ESTA program or ESTA mobile application. In addition, new applicants for ESTA who are or have been present in Cuba, as well as those who are dual nationals of both an ESTA/visa waiver country and Cuba, at the time of applying for ESTA will be ineligible for travel to the United States under the ESTA. For now, the announcement does not impact “visa free” travelers from Canada.
There is a narrow exception for full-time government officials and military personnel who travel to Cuba for official government or military activity. This exemption does not apply to members of international organizations.
ESTA holders who have traveled to Cuba and who anticipate travel to the United States should anticipate revocation of their ESTA certificate and begin the process of obtaining a B-1/2 visa immediately. ESTA travelers who have or are planning travel to Cuba should carefully weigh the benefits of doing so against the loss of the ESTA benefit.
CBP’s full announcement is embedded below.
Please contact your Dentons Immigration Group member if you have any questions.