If you write a travel-related blog, you’re supposed to have a sense of adventure,. This post is how my sense of adventure is actually outweighed by risk, legal risk, that most will never face. Hear me out, and I’d love it if you just tell me I’m being paranoid. I’d love it if you’d help to change my mind on this.
There’s virtually no legal risk for the average American in traveling to Cuba now, it would seem.
While the categories of allowable travel haven’t changed, it’s no longer required to obtain a special permit from the US government to travel. Americans have a general license, and those who do go are presumed to fall into an eligible category.
As for as those categories go, I arguably could go as a ‘journalist’ and blog the trip. I haven’t consulted with legal experts, and I’m not certain how well-tested that area of law is.
Even MasterCard will allow US-issued cards to be used for payment in Cuba starting March 1.
So it’s for all intents and purposes open season for Americans to travel to Cuba, even if it isn’t strictly legal for all to do so. And even if scheduled flights by US carriers to Cuba are on hold.
Here’s the concern I have, and how the legal grey area of Cuba travel might come up. Say you’re being investigated by a US attorney for completely unrelated activity. For the purpose of this hypothetical post, let’s say the investigation is for ‘structuring’ bank deposits in a manner that appears to avoid the required reporting of amounts over $10,000.
You have a pretty good case you weren’t doing what you were accused of. The prosecutor offers you a deal, because they know their case is weak. You’re inclined to roll the dice with a jury. But during discovery, the US attorney’s office comes to learn that you traveled to Cuba — and may not have fallen into an allowable category to spend money there. So if you don’t take the plea, the prosecutor will pile on with charges … for something that most Americans would get away with.
Put another way, it looks fine to travel to Cuba — unless you catch the ire of a prosecutor for something else entirely. And then every grey area move you’ve made is on the table.
I suppose I’m super cautious by nature. Heck, I could be a lot more aggressive on my taxes than I am. But I don’t think I’m ready to travel to Cuba. Many others, of course, will be!
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