Getting to and from USA
Replies: 18 - Last Post: Jan 9, 2012 7:08 PM Last Post By: Altahabana
Jan 8, 2012 9:14 AM
Getting to and from USAHey travelers.....
I'm planning on visiting Cuba for one month this coming summer (mid-June- mid July)
Unfortunately, my government makes it difficult.
I've heard that it isn't wise to make a round trip from Canada or Mexico because upon my return to the states, my passport, although not stamped in Cuba, will show an inexplicable gap.... showing that I left from and returned to Mexico/Canada with no explanation.
I've had bad luck with U.S. customs in the past...... single male backpacker..... I often receive "extra" scrutiny so I want to cover all of my bases.
I certainly can't afford to pay $10,000 and have my passport confiscated.
Jan 8, 2012 9:27 AM
1I would love to hear WHERE people hear this stuff. Can you site a current source?
Please do a search on this forum and you will see that unless you are a smuggler of cigars or rum, you will not have a problem. Covering all your bases means don't wear the Che t-shirt and you might want to tear any tags that say HAV off your luggage.
I have many gaps in my extra Mexico stamps in my passport.
Jan 8, 2012 9:52 AM
Thanks..... I understand that I may sound paranoid, but believe me, I really do get hassled...... maybe I look sketchy..... don't know. I'm pretty innocent, but whatever.
$10,000 and loosing your passport is the maximum penalty allowed by law...... not saying this happens often, but it is the law, at least in writing if not in reality.
On several occasions, upon returning to the states I've been pulled aside and had my bags opened and searched...... I've been grilled by the immigration guys about why in the hell I wanted to travel to here or there...... those guys can be major douche bags...... I think maybe they can smell my contempt for them..... who knows.....
In my case, It pays to be cautious when breaking the law...... even if it is an archaic un justifiable law.
Jan 8, 2012 10:47 AM
3Loosing your passport, or paying a $10,000 fine highly unlikely. I've been many times, going through both Canada and Mexico, and never had a real problem. Depending on where in the States you live, either Mexico (if you live in the NorthWest, West or Southwest, or the SouthEast, including Florida) or Canada (if you live in the NorthEast, Mid-West, and also an option if you live in the NorthWest), are your best bets. The least hastle coming back from your gateway country is by driving, or taking a train. More hastle flying back (but not always--I've had several flybacks from gateways, esp. Cancun, where there were no secondary inspections). For obvious reasons (folks being poor, from other countries besides Canada, etc.) there have been more hastles taking the bus back. Unless you are taking back large quantities of cigars, rum, or wearing a Che t-shirt, etc., then no problems. Although I have many tell-tale "double stamps" on my U.S. passport, I've never had a problem with them (although I've created numerous stories to explain these. Since I am a good story-teller, very gregarious, and old to boot, the agent usually passes me though when my story begins to become too convoluted for him to follow, or takes too much time for him to spend!
Jan 8, 2012 1:23 PM
4Unfortunately, my government makes it difficult
That is, as Patrica suggests, a myth. Nobody gets hassled for coming and going no matter the Che T-shirt and cigars. Even telling Homeland Security that they had gone to Cuba resulted in nothing happening for a couple of friends who insisted on being honest.
The OFAC records for over a decade, indicate that no one has ever been fined anything more than a few hundred dollars just for traveling to Cuba, and no one has been fined anything for 5-6 years.
Sixteen trips in as many years and Customs knew I had been to Cuba every time I returned. The only thing that came of their certain knowledge was two OFAC letters from about 12 and 10 years ago, asking me to fill out some detailed form aobut what I did with which and to whom and for how much. I responded to both with a letter refusing to answer based on my Fifth Amendment rights and nothing further has ever ensued, nor will it.
Up to about 5-6 years ago I was alwasy made to pause while the HS agent read through the many pages of my files on his screen and then asked, "When was the last time you went to Cuba". I simply refused to answer the first time out but had one of those after-the-moment clever inspirations and came to respond with a stock answer thereafter, "It was about the same time that you stopped beating your wife. When was that?" More than one agent thought that was pretty funny.
Jan 8, 2012 3:59 PM
Jan 8, 2012 5:13 PM
6when i flew from cancun to havana, there was no mexico exit stamp. i guess your concern is the re-entry mexico stamp. it's normal to feel a bit paranoid as a first timer to cuba because i did too. prior to re-entry to mexico, i was strategizing....flipping through my passport pages with my thumb, just like the US customs would do, to see which page it is least likely for them see the stamp at a quick glance. So, i picked out a page and asked the Mexico customs to stamp on lol....
I've met a a few americans during my trip and they say they go there every yr and they have no trouble with US customs. Here is my detailed experience with US Checkpoints 2 months ago:
1/ US customs - the guy barely even flipped 2 pages of my passport...asked me generic questions...where i went, for how long and if i enjoyed it.
2/ Declarations - the guy flipped like 2 pages ...asked same first 2 questions. I said, mexico 16 days. 3rd one was a bit tricky..he asked if i went anywhere else. of course i had a 1/3 of a second contemplation of the potential consequences depending on my response. my quickest response - NO.
3/ Guy #2 mumbled something...i didn't hear what he said and i was just happily leaving that checkpoint thinking i was thru already. Immediately after that checkpoint, i saw a bunch of people lined up and i see no other path so i just naturally go to that line (not a good move). there the officers were ransacking suitcases, opening pill bottles...everything they can find. I almost had a heart attack because i had a cuba guidebook, cigars, rum...etc in my backpack lol. luckily guy #2 saw me waiting in line and came over, 'i told u to go on the green dotted line' (the dots were blocked by the line of people!!). *whew that was close!
4/ Security - becauses i had a connection in Florida, i had to reclaim my luggage and go thru that screening machine again. meaning...i had to dig out that bottle of rum and reluctantly toss it out.
you most likely don't have to go thru 3 & 4 if your flight is direct.
Jan 8, 2012 5:16 PM
Jan 8, 2012 5:51 PM
8Hi, other one. I can only speak of my own experiences. I traveled to Cuba last spring via Venezuela and shared your fears. When I returned to the US I had the gap in my Venezuelan stamps, on top of which I missed my AA flight from CCS to MIA because my flight from HAV to CCS was delayed, and I had to explain that to the AA representatives in Caracas as well as deal with the US customs. But I had no problem. I suppose if they found my Cuban goods I would have just told them I purchased them in Venezuela, and likely had them confiscated, but who knows.
I'm breathing easier about it the second time around.
I have no idea if ordinary travelers have been convicted and penalized. When I did a google search for "Sentences Cuba embargo violations", I got one relevant hit on the first two pages of results...this account of two Americans charged with violating the Cuba trade embargo, Sept. 2011. They were traveling together, and one was involved in a multimillion dollar Cuban real estate deal, while his travelling companion did not buy real estate but "spent money on food, drinks, transportation, entertainment and personal services" http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1112/111201newyork.htm I would imagine that the courts have not settled the case yet. The other hits were all related to embargo violations with other nations, most notably Iran. But I only scanned the first two pages. I would like to find a history of how these laws have been enforced in the past.
Jan 8, 2012 6:15 PM
92 trips a year for the past 8 exiting and re-entering thru Canada. I tell them at the border where I've been. Once I got a look several years ago, and the guy said "WHAT! Oh, go on." Once I got my trunk checked. Now, it's "Ho hum, got any cigars or rum?" after the usual questions.
Jan 8, 2012 6:29 PM
Jan 8, 2012 6:42 PM
Jan 8, 2012 6:59 PM
12Arriving in Miami with two shipping containers weighing 70 pounds each and documents indicating I was returning from Cuba (I have license) I was to the baggage inspection line in US Customs.
The Customs agent asked and I told him the boxes contained framed photographs from my exhibit in Havana. He did not pause and just said "have a nice day" without even asking me to take the containers off my baggage cart. I walked away thinking I could have had 5,000 Cohibas in there and no one would have ever known.
The only other question I have been asked was if the relatives I was visiting in Cuba were my parents. Now, I am 68 years old. Do the math. I simply told him no, it was a cousin. End of conversation with immigration.
Jan 8, 2012 8:08 PM
13I have been shouting about how foolish were the concerns of Americans about visiting Cuba for at least a decade. I got shouted and slandered down for about a decade for consistently voicing that obvious truth for almost as many years.
It's rewarding to see that finally become the prevalent point of view, and a consensus reality.
The risk-level assessment I usually use is that succumbing to a land shark attack has a higher probability than getting fined for visiting Cuba.
Jan 9, 2012 7:51 AM
14I got shouted and slandered down for about a decade for consistently voicing that obvious truth for almost as many years. . . .It's rewarding to see that finally become the prevalent point of view, and a consensus reality.
Don't you think you are being a "tad bit" overdramatic? The prevalent point of view for a number of years on this board has been that the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, which contain the travel restrictions, are not being enforced against ordinary tourist travel. But despite numerous attempts by some members of Congress to liberalize or repeal the travel restrictions, they still remain in force. For that reason, I think that minimal precautions still should be taken by travelers who are going to Cuba unlicensed.
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