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Step by step guide to the Cuban visa application process

The only reason you may be wondering how to get a visa for Cuba is because you’re thinking of travelling there. You might want to enjoy its sunny beaches, the stunning colonial architecture and the overall air of travelling back in time, or maybe you need to travel for business or work.

However, whatever your purpose of travel is, before you book your ticket and hop on a plane, you should first see whether you need to apply for a visa or not.

But, how to apply for a visa to Cuba? Do you even have to?

This article aims to answer your questions regarding the Cuba visa application process.

Who Has to Apply for a Cuba Visa?

Almost everyone has to apply for a Cuba visa, except citizens of certain countries.

However, visa-exemptions only apply in regards to tourism trips of up to 30-90 days. For long-term stays, everyone has to apply for a visa.

See a more detailed list of who needs a Cuba visa here.

How to Get a Visa for Cuba?

You can apply for a Cuba visa in one of the following ways:

  • Submit the application yourself at the Cuban consulate in your country, if there is one.
    • If there is not, you can travel to the nearest one, for example in a neighboring country.
  • Send the application and required documents by mail at the Cuban consulate.
    • In this case, check with the consulate’s website to see whether they require you to send copies of your documents or the originals, as different consulates have different requirements.
    • Include a pre-paid envelope with sufficient stamps and an address where the consulate can return your documents.
  • Appoint a representative to apply in your behalf (ie. an authorized visa application agency).

If you are applying for a Cuba Tourist Visa (Tourist Card) you can get the Cuba visa in one of the following ways:

  • At the Cuban consulate, as described above.
  • You can get it online, through an authorized visa application agency.
  • Through a travel agency or tour group organizing trips to Cuba.
  • At the airport before you are scheduled to travel to Cuba, although not all airports offer this service.

Keep in mind:

When you submit your Cuba visa application, you have to pay a Cuba visa fee, either in cash or through a bank transfer, depending on the specific consulate’s requirements. The fee prices range from $25 to $75 but if you apply through a visa agency or online, you may have to pay additional fees for the service.

You can only get Tourist Cards online or through travel agencies and airports, not actual visas, such as for studying or working. The Cuba Tourist Card (Tarjeta de Turista) is a separate document, either in a green or pink color – it is not stamped or affixed to your passport.

Check the Cuba consulate’s opening hours and working days before you go in to apply. Additionally, see whether you are required to make an appointment beforehand.

How to Get a Business/journalist Visa for Cuba?

Obtaining a visa for Cuba for business or journalism purposes requires additional authorization from the Cuba Embassy.

For a Cuba Business Visa, you must get authorization to enter the country for business purposes from the Commercial Office of the Embassy of Cuba.

For a Cuba Journalist visa, you must get authorization to travel to Cuba for journalistic purposes from the Press Office of the Cuban Embassy.

Only after receiving authorization from the relevant office at the Cuba embassy, you can submit the Cuban visa application at the consulate.

How to Get a Long-stay Visa for Cuba?

To be allowed to stay in Cuba long-term, you have to get the right for residency at the Cuban consulate. When applying for residency, you must have:

  • A certificate of police clearance from your country, issued in the past three months and legalized.
  • Medical screening, including blood tests, AIDS test, and radiographic examinations of the thorax. The results cannot be older than six months, and must be legalized.
  • A letter which states what is the reason that you are applying.
  • Any documents which support your request, such as marriage or birth certificates (for family visas), work contract (for a work visa), enrollment in a Cuban university and proof of language proficiency (for a student visa), etc.

How to Travel to Cuba from the USA?

US nationals have a harder time obtaining a Cuba visa than other countries, due to a trade ban the US government imposed on Cuba back in the 1960s.

Technically, US citizens cannot travel to Cuba simply for tourism purposes. If you are a US citizen, you can travel to Cuba, but you must have another valid reason which falls under the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) authorized travel categories. So, as a US national, you can apply for a Cuban visa if you’re traveling for the following reasons:

  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian activities/projects
  • Educational activities (teachers, students, etc)
  • Family visits
  • Journalism
  • Professional research and professional meetings
  • Certain authorized export transactions
  • Activities of private foundations/research/educational institutes
  • Public performances, workshops, clinics, athletic competitions, and exhibitions
  • Religious activities
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informative materials

If your travel purpose is one of the above-mentioned categories, it means you have a general license to travel to Cuba. A general license is nothing more than you declaring that your purpose of travel falls under one of those categories and submitting prof if it. There is no actual physical “license” that you receive.

If you are travelling from the US, you’ll receive a pink Tourist Card, which is different from the green Tourist Card everyone else receives. So, another “loophole” that some use is travelling to another country, and then entering Cuba from there since the color of the Tourist Card depends on the country you’re entering from, not your nationality.

What Documents Do I Have to Submit for a Cuba Visa?

To apply for a Cuba visa, you must have:

For a more detailed list of required documents for a Cuba visa, see here.

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