Cuban Customs and Immigration
Here's an example of the Custom Declaration Form that should be filled by travelers entering in Cuba. This form will be handed to you onboard your flight to Cuba.
Here’s an example of the Tourist Card that should be filled by foreigners entering in Cuba. This card will be handed to you onboard your flight to Cuba, or given by your travel agency or tour operator before your flight.
For up-to-date information on what travelers can legally import and export to/from Cuba, please visit the OFFICIAL Cuban Customs (Aduana Cuba) website: www.aduana.gob.cu.
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE STEP-BY-STEP PROCEDURES:
The following information is for travelers entering Cuba as TOURISTS.
How to get through Immigration, Security, and Customs, on ARRIVAL:
• After leaving the aircraft you are guided by Officials to enter in the Arrivals building where you'll find Immigration Control. The zone is composed of several short enclosed halls with a booth where the Immigration Officer is sitting behind a tall counter. You have to go to the booth one person at the time, but children can go with an adult.
• The Officer will check your Passport and Tourist Card (Visa Tarjeta del Turista). This Tourist Card should be provided by your travel agency, tour operator or airline. If you don't have it, you'll have to purchase one (20 USD). Note that since the spring of 2014, Cuban Immigration now stamps all passports (before you had to request a stamp if you wanted one as a "souvenir"); this include Americans traveling on a direct flight from USA to Cuba with an OFAC license. However, the Cuban Immigration MAY make an exception for Americans arriving from other countries (presuming they don't have an OFAC license) and don't stamp their passport as a courtesy. So if you are an American citizen or resident traveling to Cuba without a license, kindly ask the Official not to stamp your passport, but always bear in mind that he/she may forget and stamp it anyway as a force of habit.
• The Officer may ask a few basic questions such as: What is the purpose of your trip? Is it your first time in Cuba? What do you do for living?
• The Immigration officer will ask you to step back, remove hat or glasses, and look at the camera whilst he/she take your picture.
• Since May 1st, 2010 all foreigners who want to travel to Cuba must be covered by a travel insurance that includes a medical care benefit. Travelers MAY be required to present a proof of medical coverage valid for the entire period of their stay in Cuba; in the form of an insurance policy, insurance certificate, medical assistance card, etc. If you don't have one, you'll have to purchase a health insurance plan from the Cuban travelers aid company called ASISTUR S.A. (www.asistur.cu) at your point of entry.
• The Immigration Official will stamp, detach and keep one half of your Tourist Card. You'll have to turn in the other half when you exit Cuba so it's VERY important to keep it safe during your stay; having to replace it could be a complicated process.
• After the Immigration procedures are completed, the Officer will press a buzzer button to unlock the door beside you, exit the booth through this door.
• The next step is to get you and your carry-on baggage scanned in the x-ray machine and metal detector arch to check if you are carrying firearms, meat products, plants, fruits/vegetables, or any other prohibited or restricted item. Every checked baggage is also being scanned (in another area) and sniffed by trained dogs.
• Then proceed to the Baggage Claim area to collect your checked baggage.
• Once you have claimed your baggage, a Customs Officer will collect your Custom Declaration Form (the one you filled on the plane). He/she will also check if your bag was marked (after X-ray scanning) for a manual search (only if they suspect something). If you have nothing to declare then proceed to the exit.
How to get through Passport Control and Security, on DEPARTURE:
• After you've checked-in for your flight and received your boarding pass, then proceed to the Passport Control booth to clear Immigration. You'll have to show your passport and boarding pass, and give back the second half of your Tourist Card. The Officer will stamp your passport, take your picture, and then unlock the door so you can move to the security checkpoint.
• Your carry-on bag will be scanned (X-ray machine with conveyor belt) and you'll have to walk through the metal detector arch, as in any other airport. In Cuban airports it's usually not required to remove your shoes, unless you've been ask to do so.
• You can then exit the Screening area to get to the Departure Gate Lounge.
• When you flight is called, they will check your boarding pass at the Gate. In airports with no jet-bridges, you may have to show again your boarding pass when you get to the staircase to board the aircraft.
Lily & Normand