Question: Is it legally possible for a foreigner to ship a personal vehicle to Cuba for use by Cuban friends?
Answer: Aduana General de la República de Cuba (General Customs of the Republic of Cuba) has a website, called AduaCuba, which is available in both Spanish and English – although the English section is less detailed – and which can be found at www.aduana.co.cu . To access the English language section, go to the site’s homepage and, on the right-hand side of the thin blue banner, click on “English” (written in red). This takes you to the “Cuban Customs” page.
On the AduaCuba homepage, there is a relatively new document available, only in Spanish, entitled Normas, Aduana – 2011, Repúbica de Cuba (Norms, Customs – 2011, Republic of Cuba). It is the first edition of the main custom regulations currently in use and can be downloaded as a PDF document. Because so many people – both visitors to Cuba and Cubans travelling abroad – do not know much about Cuban customs regulations, this document is intended as a corrective to this situation and, by implication, to facilitate and speed up entry into the country.
Under the section entitled Vehículos, Motores y Carrocerías (Vehicles, Engines and Chassis), there is a detailed discussion about what groups of people are authorized to import light automotive vehicles into Cuba. These groups include foreign business associations, travel agencies, bank and financial representatives, foreign technicians working in Cuba on contract, foreign journalists accredited in the country, etc. In each case, authorization must first be obtained from an official Cuban ministry or national organization.
People coming into Cuba as tourists can temporarily import a vehicle under the following conditions: it’s authorized by Cuban customs (for a maximum of 30 days), and the tourist is obliged to re-export the vehicle within the time granted, or when s/he leaves the country if it’s sooner.
For tourists who enter Cuba on Cruise Ships or other “recreational ships,” a vehicle – which must come on board the boat with the tourist – can be temporarily imported for up to six months, but it must be re-exported at the end of the allowed period.
No other category of individual can import (or export) vehicles.
You might want to explore with your friends the possibility of helping them obtain a vehicle that’s already in Cuba. Following from the April 2011 Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, there has been a certain flexibility introduced into the procedures for Cubans to buy and sell vehicles from each other. Your friends could orient you about these changes.