Traveling, importing and sending packages to Cuba

United States and Cuba hold migration talks

HAVANA, Aug. 21st.With the reestablishment of direct flights to Cuba from various parts of the world and the easing or elimination of the sanitary measures that kept many families away during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cubans residing abroad wonder what has changed during this time in terms of customs and immigration legislation.

Faced with the severe economic crisis that Cuba is going through, which translates into a shortage of basic necessities, many seek information, in addition, about what they can or cannot import to the island as part of their baggage.

The first thing you should know is that the extension to stay abroad remains in force; that is, it is possible to stay outside the country for more than 24 months without losing the status of resident in Cuba.

In addition, Cuban residents who were off the island on March 19, 2020, can still make a single entry into the country with an expired passport and without the updated extensions.

Another novelty to be taken into account by travelers is that Cuban passports issued — both on the island and in the consulates abroad — as of July 1, 2023, will be valid for ten years, a period in which it will not be necessary to extend them.

Nor will it be necessary to extend passports issued before that date (7/1/2023), which, however, will maintain their current expiration date. In this sense, the new measure is not retroactive in nature, as confirmed by Foreign Ministry General Director of Consular Affairs and Cuban Residents Abroad Ernesto Soberón.

As of November 15, 2021, travelers who intend to visit the island, regardless of their nationality, residence or reason for travel, must fill out and present, with a maximum of 72 hours in advance, the D’Viajero form. It is a mandatory presentation document that collects advanced information from those who travel with the aim of expediting entry into the country.

Among the data that you must provide to customs through this form are your basic personal information (full name, passport number, nationality, among others), immigration information (country of origin, purpose of travel, etc.), health (vaccination certificate, etc.) and customs (items and money imported into the country, number of companions, etc.).

The Cuban Ministry of Transportation published on its website the Manual D’Viajeros, where you can consult, in Spanish and English, quick information on what you can import to Cuba, what products are exempt from paying duties and what Customs prohibits, as well as a summary of the main immigration and health measures to enter the country.

Regarding personal imports, it is important to know that the only items benefiting from the extraordinary exemption from paying tariffs up to the time of writing this note are: medical supplies (medications, supplies and equipment), food, toiletries, electric generators and electrical appliances that are imported without commercial character.

Said exemption will be in force until December 31, 2023, and includes the possibility of importing medical supplies (equipment and accessories) for the treatment of people admitted to hospitals or with chronic diseases. The list of medical supplies authorized for import is included in the Sole Annex of Resolution 182/2023 of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health. Among the permitted categories are inputs related to medical devices, expendables and para pharmacy, and optical and hearing aids, among others.

As of July 1, 2023, people who wish to import unaccompanied baggage into the country, for which a maximum weight of 50 kg or 500 USD, its equivalent, will benefit from the temporary extension of the regulation supported by Resolution 133/2023 of the Ministry of Finance and Prices. Before the extension, the import limit was 20 kg or 200 USD.

Cuban Customs considers unaccompanied baggage that is imported into the country through maritime, air, or postal transit agencies.

The first 30 USD of the value of the baggage, or its equivalent in weight (3 kg), is exempt from payment. From this value/weight, the rate applied by Customs will be 30% for excess. This allows for the import, by way of unaccompanied baggage or shipments, household appliances such as laptops, televisions, refrigerators, and freezers, among others that exceeded the reference values.

It is important to know that Customs will only apply the above benefits to shipments or accompanied baggage that enter the country as “separate packages from the rest of the products,” according to Resolution 133/2023 of the Ministry of Finance and Prices, published in the Gaceta Oficial No. 47 Extraordinaria of June 29, 2023, in force as of July 1 of this year.

Import of toiletries, food and medicines

Cuban Customs considers the import of a personal nature as that which individuals “carry out occasionally for their personal, family or home use, through baggage, shipments, household items or other authorized freight.”

In Resolution 309 of July 15, 2021, Cuba announced the exemption from paying taxes for the non-commercial and unlimited import of food and toiletries (both are classified by customs as “miscellaneous”) and medicines into the country “via passengers as accompanied baggage.”

These benefits will remain in force until December 31, 2023, according to Resolution 133/2023, issued by the Ministry of Finance and Prices of Cuba and in force since July 1.

The limit of shipments depends on the airlines. However, in the case of unaccompanied baggage/shipments, the established limit is up to 50 kg or 500 USD.

This import benefit only applies to travelers who bring toiletries, medical supplies and food to the island for non-commercial purposes and these must enter the country as part of their baggage, in original and properly packaged containers, always in separate packages from the rest of the baggage.

Among the foods allowed in accompanied baggage are: cereals, vegetable or animal oils, spices, preserves, and dairy products, among others.

Among those prohibited, the customs website lists fresh, frozen, or dehydrated meats, sausages, unpasteurized dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, and agricultural and forest products.

However, in September 2022 the National Center for Animal Health (CENASA) relaxed the sanitary regulations for importing fresh meat without commercial purposes. In this way, according to the announcement of that time (still in force), it is possible to import to the island the following foods that had been considered prohibited: fresh, frozen, dehydrated, or salted meat, with or without bones; edible offal; semi-processed meat products (hamburgers; mincemeat; meatballs; shaped like meat sticks, nuggets, and other breaded products).

The only requirements for importing the mentioned foods are that their packaging is vacuum sealed and comes from eligible countries. The list of countries can be found here.

In the same way, Cuban Customs clarifies in the Manual D’Viajeros that it does not consider alcoholic beverages as “food,” which cannot be imported to the island under the benefit of the exemption of tariffs.

As for medicines, unlimited and duty-free import is also temporarily maintained, and in addition to the items allowed for import are those considered medical supplies, a category that includes, for example, sanitary masks, diagnostic equipment and biosensors, special adjusters for breast prostheses, personal scales, electro-stimulators, hearing aids, among others.

Imported medicines must be in their original packages and passengers must submit a medical authorization or prescription to Customs, as well as declare in the D’Viajeros form those medicines that are considered “controlled,” such as some analgesics, antiepileptics and antidepressants, among others.

Travelers who import medicines into the country for their own treatment should know that the amount allowed cannot exceed 30 days of treatment. You can find detailed information about the medications that require authorization or a medical certificate here.

The following substances are not allowed to be imported into the country: psychotropic or hallucinogenic substances, precursor substances, drugs and narcotics.

In the same way, although with the previous presentation of a medical authorization document, the import into the country of prepared medicines that contain narcotic and/or psychotropic drugs is allowed.

Import of electric vehicles

Since March of this year, the import of electric vehicles or mopeds into Cuba by individuals has been authorized. Decree 83/2023 “On the transfer of ownership of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, their commercialization and import” establishes that passengers traveling to Cuba may import, as part of their baggage, “up to two (2) items of the so-called mopeds or motorcycles, with or without sidecar, in both cases electric, as long as they do not have any additional freight and passenger capacity.”

The decree adds that the number of vehicles allowed for import is reduced to one per individual when the import route is by shipment. In the same way, only one set of parts (which includes an electric motor and its accessories) per passenger is allowed to enter the country with the aim of converting combustion vehicles to electric ones.

The reference values for the payment of tariffs for these vehicles and parts can be consulted in the aforementioned document.

The exclusive routes for importing these vehicles are accompanied and unaccompanied baggage or shipments.

These items are subject to tax according to the valuation method established by customs. To consult the valuation methods that Cuban Customs is empowered to consider, you can read here.

Import of electrical items and household appliances

In Annex I of Resolution 175/2022, the “Rules for non-commercial imports carried out by individuals” were established, as well as the “List of Reference Values,” in Annex II.

In the section dedicated to household appliances, it is specified that Customs accepts up to two household appliances of the same type “provided that the sum of their values does not exceed the limit established for the import of baggage, shipments or another operation to be carried out; as appropriate and in accordance with the provisions of Annex III.” The maximum limit allowed is $1,000.

Some of the household appliances allowed for import are irons, refrigerators, minibars, domestic dishwashers, electric stoves and burners (with and without oven), microwaves, rice cookers, sewing machines, electric shower, conventional and LCD, plasma and LED TV sets, among others. The full listing and reference values for each item are available here.

Other items such as construction materials, computer equipment, musical instruments and parts for permitted motor vehicles, which are part of the items to be imported that are subject to tariff rates, are collected and available for consultation in the same document.

Import via shipments

Regarding shipments (packages, courier or correspondence), one of the alternative ways of importing baggage accompanied by the traveler, according to Cuban Customs, Decree Law 22/2020 established that the value of the shipment should not exceed 200 USD.

However, with Resolution 133/2023 of the Ministry of Finance and Prices, published in the Gaceta Oficial No. 47 Extraordinaria of June 29, 2023 and in force as of July 1 of this year, the limit was increased to 500 USD.

Through this modality, individuals can send miscellaneous goods (clothing, footwear, medicines, toiletries) and household appliances to the island that do not exceed the previous value.

The companies authorized to receive international parcels in the country are Aerovaradero S.A, Palco customs and freight forwarding agency, the international exchange and messaging agency of the Correos de Cuba business group, Transcargo and the Cubanacán Express and Cubapac agencies.

Resolution 204/2022, a revision to the tariff rate for shipments, decreases the customs tax and increases the capacity to import shipments. According to an official communication made by the Cuban Customs on April 30, 2023 “in the first 30 USD, either in value or in its equivalent, which is 3 kg, they are exempt from payment. From 31 USD to 200 USD, a 30% tax is applied (to the shipment).