As of Friday, Americans wanting to visit Cuba will no longer need to seek U.S. government permission. Upon reaching Cuba, they will be able to use their credit cards for the first time. And what’s more, American firms will even be able to sell software and provide Internet service in the communist island.
These new measures, which significantly ease the trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, come into effect on January 16.
“Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies that were not working and puts in place a policy that helps promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in a statement.
The further easing of restrictions came after Cuba released more than 50 political prisoners.
There are also reports that the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are reviewing a proposal to allow regular flights to Cuba, as well as completely lifting the embargo on sales of Cuban cigars on U.S. territory.
About 170,000 U.S. citizens traveled to Cuba last year. Removal of the need to seek a license to travel will likely encourage large numbers of Americans to visit Cuba in the near future.
Most significantly, the latest measures almost fully relax the banking restrictions and allow Americans to export mobile phones and other technology to the island.
For now, internet penetration is extremely low in Cuba, but analysts believe American participation may change ICT infrastructure in a matter of years on the island that lies just 90 miles south of Florida.