The Obama administration has announced changes regarding travel to Cuba.
The fifth-round of measures regarding the Cuban embargo comes prior to President Obama’s visit to the Caribbean nation, the first of an American leader in almost 90 years.
Officials said in a statement that it will allow individual “people-to-people educational travel” to Cuba.
This signifies that U.S. citizens are able to legally visit the nation as long as they demonstrate that they are going for educational purposes instead of tourism. This means that Americans can now travel individually instead of booking expensive group tours.
The Obama administration said that travelers must include records that show a “full-time schedule of authorized activities.”
The move is expected to help fill demand for commercial flights that U.S. airlines hope to initiate soon.
“Today we are building on this progress by facilitating travel for additional Americans looking to engage with Cubans,” said Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew in a statement.
Sec Lew: “We’ve reshaped our regs to empower Cuban people & enable economic advancements for Cubans and Americans” https://t.co/GZdAGDqmAW
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) March 15, 2016
The new measures also permit citizens from Cuba to earn salaries in the United States. The U.S. Treasury Department said this includes Cuban athletes, artists, performers, and others who have the required visas.
The changes will allow “u-turn payments through the U.S. financial system,” which means U.S. banks can process Cuban government transactions that pass through other financial institutions.
U.S. companies can now manufacture goods in Cuba, export to the Cuban government, and fly regularly scheduled flights to the nation. Starwood Hotels said it expects to get U.S. approval to manage hotels in Cuba soon.
“Today’s steps build on the actions of the last 15 months as we continue to break down economic barriers, empower the Cuban people and advance their financial freedoms, and chart a new course in U.S.-Cuba relations,” said Lew.
“These steps not only expand opportunities for economic engagement between the Cuban people and the American business community, but will also improve the lives of millions of Cuba’s citizens,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in a statement.
The easing of restrictions follows President Obama and President Raul Castro’s announcement about opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014.
However, not all diplomatic restrictions will be cleared until congress ends the embargo.
The United States cut diplomatic relations with the communist country and Cold War enemy in 1961. Both countries remained hostile for decades.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.