On Thursday, February 26, 2015, US Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) published a public notice on its website regarding the procedures for importations from Cuba recently authorized by the U.S. Government. This notice establishes the processes (and requirements) by which both commercial goods and goods for personal use are to be imported into the United States. It is the latest component of the US Government’s recent relaxation of the comprehensive US embargo of Cuba. Under Section 515.582 of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (“CACR”), persons subject to US jurisdiction are authorized to engage in all transactions (including payments) necessary to import into the United States certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs. The Section 515.582 List published by the State Department provides the current list of eligible and excluded Cuban goods and services. The CBP notice establishes the following requirements with regard to the importation of such authorized goods from Cuba into the United States: 1. Importing Commercial Goods from Cuba For importation of commercial goods (e.g., goods for retail sale in the United States), CBP requires a customs informal entry for goods valued at under $2,500, and a formal entry for goods exceeding $2,500. Under the 2015 Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”), Cuba is a Column 2 country, and as such, goods eligible for importation from Cuba are subject to Column 2 specific duty rates (as opposed to standard Column 1 duty rates). As a practical matter, Column 2 duty rates are significantly higher than standard Column 1 rates. Indeed, the duty rates on commercial goods eligible for importation from Cuba can reach 75% or more. 2. Importing Goods for Personal Use From Cuba:
- Imports by authorized travelers of goods produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs under CACR Section 515.582: Imports by individuals returning from Cuba as part travel authorized under the CACR are allowed an $800 exemption from customs duties in accordance with the HTSUS, if the goods are for personal use. The first $1,000 above that $800 (i.e., $801 to $1,800) will be assessed duty at a rate of 4%. The $800 exemption and the application of the 4% duty rate for $801 to $1,800 will be multiplied by the number of qualified family members traveling in the same group.
- Imports by authorized travelers of goods other than those authorized by CACR Section 515.582: For goods other than those authorized by CACR Section 515.582, CACR Section 515.560 imposes specific limitations on the total value that may be imported into the United States. The value of merchandise purchased or otherwise acquired in Cuba that is imported as accompanied baggage may not exceed $400 per person, of which no more than $100 may consist of alcohol or tobacco (or a combination thereof). Products purchased for importation under CACR Section 515.560 do not need to be sourced from independent Cuban entrepreneurs. Imports of alcohol and tobacco over the $100 limitation will be detained or seized.