Over the past few years, the United States announced changes with regard to ESTA eligibility for people who have been to Cuba. In January 2021, the Trump administration included Cuba in the U.S. Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List. This has also affected the way that travelers can gain entry into the United States via ESTA.
Foreign travelers from countries included in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)—a visa waiver program for over 40 countries including European Union member states—who visited Cuba during or after January 2021 are required to request a visa at the Consulate General or Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in their home country.
What is a State Sponsor of Terrorism?
The U.S. Department of State determines the countries that have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism and designates them pursuant to three U.S. laws. The four primary categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include: (1) restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; (2) a ban on defense exports and sales; (3) certain controls over exports of dual use items; and (4) miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
Which nations are designated by the Secretary of State as State Sponsors of Terrorism?
There are four countries that are currently designated by the U.S. Department as State Sponsors of Terrorism:
– Cuba (Designated on January 12, 2021)
– North Korea (Designated on November 20, 2017)
– Iran (Designated on January 19, 1984)
– Syria (Designated on December 29, 1979)
Why does this matter?
· Foreign travelers from countries included in the ESTA program who visited Cuba on or after January 2021 are required to request a visa at the Consulate General or Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in their home country.
· This requirement will likely have negative impacts on Cuba’s tourism industry because it may disincentivize travel to Cuba.
· Cuba’s inclusion on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list limits foreign investment and creates substantial obstacles to delivering humanitarian aid to the island.
· The U.S. government is limited in its ability to support Cuban individuals and businesses.
· In addition to being penalized under the above-referenced legal authorities, designation on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list also implicates other sanctions laws that restrict trade with state sponsors.