Updated: Feb 11, 2023
Cuba is a beautiful country with a rich culture and history that attracts travelers from across the world. However, if you are planning to visit Cuba, be aware that your ESTA will be canceled. The US government has certain travel restrictions in place for persons seeking to enter after visiting Cuba. This is because Cuba was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism by the U.S. State Department on January 12, 2021. So, if you're planning a trip to Cuba, make sure you have another method of travel as an option. Otherwise, you may find yourself stranded without a quick way back to the United States.
It is important to be aware that visiting Cuba with an ESTA will be immediately canceled. The U.S. government has indirectly restricted travel for ESTA applicants who have visited Cuba. This is due to the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation. However, these travelers can still apply for a B2 tourist visa or B1 business visa through the U.S. visa application process at a selected U.S. embassy if their ESTA is cancelled.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has outlined a policy which states your ESTA will be invalided if you have recently traveled to Cuba. The cancelation of an ESTA will happen within hours or days of CBP receiving information about your travel history and visit to Cuba. As a result, the traveler will be ineligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program. This information can be obtained by CBP through passenger flight manifests or the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). It is highly recommended that travelers take this into consideration before they visit Cuba or plan any trips to Cuba.
Travelers visiting Cuba have no exemptions from the ESTA rules. If you are considering visiting Cuba and have already obtained an approved ESTA, you may want to rethink your travel plans. You will have to apply for a visa to re-enter the United States after visiting Cuba on the same passport you have with an ESTA. Ultimately, this serves as a reminder that all citizens must comply with the requirements of CBP on travel to countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list.
This policy is in place because the U.S. government does not fully recognize the Cuban government. The U.S. government currently discourages citizens, and foreign national visitors of the United States, from visiting Cuba. The U.S. government does not want Cuban government to benefit financially from travelers visiting the country, nor deal with any potential security-related issues from travelers who have visited Cuba.
If you must travel trip to Cuba and do not hold a U.S. passport, make sure you have another form of travel authorization other than an ESTA. Your approved ESTA authorization will be revoked prior to boarding a flight to the United States. Without an alternate form of travel authorization, this could present a number of travel issues, especially if you need to re-enter the United States. With a revoked ESTA, you will need to apply for a visa to re-enter the U.S.
If you're planning a trip to Cuba, make sure you have another form of travel authorization ready before you go other than an ESTA. The U.S. government has designated Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and if you visit the country your ESTA will be automatically canceled. There are unfortunately no exemptions to this rule so travelers are advised to plan ahead and accordingly.