Questioning by Cuban Immigration and Customs Officials
Replies: 45 - Last Post: Dec 6, 2012 3:16 PM Last Post By: wnyzfinest
Dec 4, 2012 6:21 PM
Dec 4, 2012 6:25 PM
Dec 4, 2012 6:28 PM
Dec 4, 2012 6:28 PM
18A travel agent will get you a Tourist Card since they are pretty much generic, you/supposed to change it in Cuba at the local immigration office in which you are staying - it requires a $40 CUC stamp purchased at a banco metropolitano,
When you go back either stay in a hotel/casa particular or get the tourist card converted to an A2.
Don't count on the Washington Embassy for Visa's especially Tourist/A2, costs $$$.
Dec 4, 2012 6:50 PM
19Thank you all for the advice...I didn't know it was easy/common to exchange the tourist card for another type of visa. And I didn't know the Washington Cuban 'embassy' charge a lot for visas...all very good to know. This is my first time on this site as a poster and you are all so friendly and helpful.
Dec 4, 2012 7:55 PM
20IWhat year was your US passport issued ?
What were three most recent countries visited before this trip to Cuba ?
Dec 4, 2012 8:00 PM
21Hi,Thanks for your post... It was issued in 2008...I visit Nicaragua twice a year (should be friendly to the Cubans, right?) and Italy...think there is an issue there?
Dec 4, 2012 8:37 PM
22You're making a big deal out of little. Not only does worse happen almost routinely to folks entering the States, but it happens equally often entering European, Latin American, Asian and/or (especially) African countries. That's ok. Don't fret.
The same goes for carrying the wrong paperwork, missing stamps or approvals, or in other ways failing to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Look at what actually happened to you: you had the wrong papers, so they said, in essence, no problem, don't worry about it. That's normal. Take them at their word.
If you go back again, try to do better in advance on the paperwork end of things. But it's important that you approach immigration counters all over the world with an attitude which says "I'm totally relaxed about this, and I'm confident everything will work out fine." Your attitude will generally insure that it does; being fearful or anxious will increase the likelihood that it won't.
Hope that's helpful.
Dec 4, 2012 8:51 PM
Dec 5, 2012 3:35 AM
24A2 visas are for those visiting their family in Cuba. I doubt you would qualify.
Dec 5, 2012 3:46 AM
25Hi, acanuck:)...thanks for that info! Oh---so is it possible to stay with a family you know in Cuba, one that isn't a casa particular that is registered? Maybe that was part of the problem?
Dec 5, 2012 9:03 AM
26Hi Cathy, I'm from the US and frequently get asked a lot of the same questions entering and exiting Cuba. Since the Alan Gross thing, anyone from the US traveling alone who seems kinda "professional" gets these kinds of questions. I think since you were unprepared, a lot of the answers that you gave (combined with certain aspects of your profile), generated more questions and concern on their part.
Here's what I would've done to reduce problems, and maybe inform your decisions next time.
BTW, I don't think you have any serious problems there (but I would wait a year before returning).
#1, don't bring a laptop or any other electronic equiptment with you (especially if you don't need to, and don't intend to leave it as a gift).
Marazul was just trying to help you by giving you a general license/ tourist visa (rather than the religious license). However, when you said that you were there for "work" and "to meet with church representatives" that was bound to generate further scrutiny. Since the Alan Gross thing, I've been asked about my job, how is it funded etc. (I work in a Women's Center at a public university that receives funding from a variety of sources). So I try to explain, but it's still confusing to whoever is asking. To disengage, I say that I don't really work in grant writing or administration, and then describe my day to day duties providing direct services to students and community members. From there, I've been asked about any relationships I or my workplace might have with any indicidual Cubans or Cuban organizations doing similar things. I say that sometimes in conversation people I meet might ask me what kind of work I do, and if it turns out that they sometimes do similar work or work with people with similar problems or issues, they might want to learn a little more about what I do, or explain how things work in their work with similar situations. But nothing formalized or beyond what can come up between people in a social situation when they realize that they do similar work. Then. if necessary, you can return to the basic point that you're there for vacation, and not for professional networking purposes.
If asked if I have been to Cuba before, I say yes. From there, if they ask more, it's usually if this is my first trip of the year. Do I know anyone in Cuba, do I have any friends there. "Yes", a few. What are their names, where so they live? Try to think for a while (if necessary remind them that you're very tired and sleep deprived from the trip with details of what time you left your house to begin your trip etc.) then give a few first names. If they ask for addresses, just give the names of the neighborhoods after thinking some more. If they ask if someone is meeting you, you can say no or that you don't think so (if for some bizare reason you're followed outside, and they see that someone is there, it could be a surprise, or that they were in the end able to get time off from work etc)
If asked where I'm going to stay, I open my address book and give them the address of a legal casa particular that I've stayed at, in the past. If for some reason they might check, you could have always changed your mind and gone elsewhere. If they want to know if I will be in Havana or travel to other places, I try to leave it open by saying that I hope to go to location X and/or Y, but I will have to see about the weather and transportation options before making a definite plan (logical for Cuba).
Upon exiting Cuba, it's always been typical to be asked about where one has stayed, if you've been more than once or twice, and not on a packaged tour(and/or they can see that someone is with you at the airport when you leave). You can say that you stayed in a casa particular (s). If they ask if you are sure, you can say yes. If they want details, give a general neighbohood description, If they ask for documentation (never heard of this), since you're from the US, you didn't keep any, in order to avoid problems upon return to the US.
In the future, I would travel through a 3rd country rather than on a direct charter, even if you have a license, and stress that you're there for a vacation, even if you've been to Cuba previously for work. You can also report you passport "lost", and get a replacement one with a new number (which might help avoid being connected to your previous trips by the person in the booth when you enter next time). If you went with a friend, this would also help tremendously too IMO.
Dec 5, 2012 9:22 AM
Dec 5, 2012 9:31 AM
Dec 5, 2012 10:08 AM
29Thanks, everyone...all of this is helpful. DraJ, I was asked for the bill from the casa particular when leaving the country. Your suggestions are super helpful---and it is comforting to know that other people get questioned like this as well. I did have a different/new passport than I had in 2003, but they still pulled me aside when I entered. It might have been the whole 'traveling alone, kinda professional' thing. I recall the immigration official did ask me first if I was with a group or traveling alone. The group that was in line behind me went through with no problem. Why do you say I should travel through a third country?
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