I am a US citizen and I have lived in the Bahamas
during the winter for the last ten years. Two years ago we thought we would like to go to Cuba. After all, we would come and go from the Bahamas
. Who's going to know? After doing a lot of homework we decided we didn't need to go. Here's why.
First, there are lots of exceptions...churches, academics, people with relatives in Cuba etc. If you're one of those, fine. If you're like the rest of us, basically you're screwed.
As best I can tell, the spending money rule
is the issue. There are travel agencies in Nassau
that will arrange a prepaid tour, so you don't spend any money
. Well, the US government has caught on to that one and now you cannot receive any value from someone in Cuba directly or indirectly. A nuisance, but here's the real hook.
Sooner or later you have to come home. When you do so you fill out the re-entry form that asks what countries you visited. If you say "Cuba" you have violated the law and are subject (if memory serves) to a $2,500 fine. If you don't say "Cuba", (after all, who's going to know, right?) you have committed perjury, which is a felony.
In the first case, where you admit going to the Castroland theme park, I understand that, while technically you have broken the law, it was
rarely enforced. That, however, was then and this is now so who knows what madness Homeland Security
has dreamed up lately. e.g. they took away my Swiss Army knife before I could get onto the ferry
to Ellis Island. Maybe they thought I was going to use it to hijack the ferry
to Cuba. In any case, you have committed a crime and are subject to a penalty.
In the second case, the "don't tell" option, can you get away with it? After all, who's going to know? Bahamas Immigration doesn't talk to US Immigration about a trip that doesn't include the US, right? They aren't supposed to but...? e.g., I have an German friend who was returning from Nassau
to Vienna via Atlanta. While clearing US Immigration in Nassau the Immigration officer recited not only her recent travel history
, but also knew who her mother (also a German citizen) was and that she been coming to Nassau for 30 years. Who's going to know? Uncle Sugar, that's who.
If you're going in a sailboat, I was talking with one of the Coasties stationed in Nassau (Yes, the USCG has a LARGE presence in the Bahamas) and he said "A tin can doesn't float in the Florida
Straits that we can't see". Good luck with that.
So, here are your choices:
a. Go and admit you went. You risk a large fine, but might get away with it. After all, someone on this thread went and got away with it. Will you? Are you willing to take the risk of being the guy they choose to make an example of? Are you a gambler?
b. Go and don't say you went. Commit a felony, risk a REALLY large fine and heavy jail time. Are you a high roller?
c. Don't go. That's what we chose. Maybe I'll live long enough to go legally.