Want To Open An Office In Cuba? There Are 200 In Front Of You

The government of the Republic of Cuba, primarily through the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba located in Washington, DC, the Ministry of Foreign Trade (MINCEX) of the Republic of Cuba, and the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba has reportedly received inquiries from more than two hundred (200) United States-based companies seeking to establish an office in the Republic of Cuba, primarily within the city of Havana.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury "authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to may establish and maintain a physical presence in Cuba, such as an office, warehouse, or retail outlet, in Cuba to engage in transactions authorized by or exempt from the CACR in the following categories: entities engaging in non-commercial activities authorized by section 515.574 (Support for the Cuban People); entities engaging in humanitarian projects set forth in section 515.575(b) (Humanitarian projects); private foundations or research or educational institutes engaging in transactions authorized by section 515.576; news bureaus; exporters of certain goods authorized for export or reexport pursuant to 31 CFR §§ 515.533 and 515.559; entities providing mail or parcel transmission services; providers of telecommunications or internet-based services; entities organizing or conducting certain educational activities; religious organizations; and providers of carrier and certain travel services. These persons may employ Cuban nationals in Cuba as well as persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Cuba (and such persons may maintain a domicile in Cuba). These persons may open and maintain bank accounts to facilitate authorized transactions. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.573. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction that do not meet the terms of the general license may apply to OFAC for a specific license. Such applications will be reviewed on a case- by-case basis.  Additional authorizations from the Cuban government may also be required."

The government of the Republic of Cuba has an application process with meaningful requirements that generally must be fulfilled in advance of establishing a presence; there are always exceptions based upon the perceived importance of the company and/or the mission of the company. 

Representatives of the government of the Republic of Cuba have reported that the process may take up to two years.

There are companies (and individuals- consultants, travel providers, etc.), including from the United States, and other countries who are are marketing that they have a "presence" while in reality may be operating within the offices of another authorized entity (which may or may not be permitted), or operating out of a hotel room or a private residence.  These unauthorized activities should be avoided.

EY Caribbean Professional Services Ltd has provided five (5) pages of a November 2015 report, "Doing Business With Cuba: A Regulatory Overview By EY" which details the process for any company seeking to establish an office in the Republic of Cuba.

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