9 Things That Will (and Won't) Change Between the US and Cuba Today

The United States and Cuba have established normal diplomatic relations.

July 20, 2015, 9:40 AM

— -- It's official. After more than 50 years of isolationist policies toward the island nation, the United States and Cuba establish normal diplomatic relations Monday.

But now that relations are "normal," what actually changes? Here are four things that will, and five things that won't change as the two countries re-established diplomatic relations.


1. There's an embassy

In January 1961, President Castro banished U.S. diplomats, calling them a "nest of spies," closed down the embassy and broke ties with America. The Cuban embassy in the United States was also shuttered, both being turned over to third parties to maintain until 1977, when they became "interest sections."

With the re-establishment of diplomatic relations today, both countries officially have embassies and will be able to fly their countries’ flags once again.

2. Diplomats can travel

Under the "interest sections," Cuban diplomats were not allowed to travel outside the beltway in Washington without first getting special permission; Americans couldn't travel outside Havana without special permission.

That changes today. Diplomats in both countries have the freedom to move as they please, with only the standard international agreement to notify the host country after travel.

3. More technology/Internet access

There has already been an increase in telecommunication development in Cuba. The government increased Internet hot spots throughout the country, while reducing the price to access the Internet. While most Cubans still don't have access to the Internet in their own homes, their ability to use it around the country has increased.

Google has already visited the island twice, and with the United States allowing commercial sale of some telecommunication devices, it is expected to continue to grow.

4. Easier cultural, religious group travel

When President Obama announced his intention to normalize relations with Cuba, he expanded the groups allowed to visit and made it easier for them to go. Previously, people needed a special license from the Treasury. Now, if they fit one of the 12 groups, they can go without getting the license.


1. The embargo remains

The U.S. government’s normalized relations with Cuba don’t mean the embargo goes away. International relations with other countries are decided by the president, but the embargo is controlled by Congress. And, as such, will require an act of Congress to end.

There are some bills introduced to end travel and ease business interactions, but they haven't gone very far.

2. Travel still banned for pure tourism

Despite normal diplomatic relations, people can’t go to Cuba for a sun and sand vacation. Tourist travel to Cuba is still prohibited for U.S. citizens, unless they fall into one of the 12 pre-approved groups outlined by the Treasury; mostly including family visits and work-related travel.

3. Only limited U.S. companies can do business

U.S. businesses may be clamoring to get into the untapped market of Cuba, but that doesn't mean they can, because of that embargo.

4. No U.S. cruise lines

Carnival Cruise Line may have gotten permission from the U.S. government to offer cruises to Cuba next spring, but that doesn't mean they will begin. The Cuban government still must sign off and their infrastructure’s ability to handle mass U.S. tourism, even as part of a cultural exchange, is still limited. So expect a slow transition, sources in the Cuban government told ABC News.

5. No nonstop, non-charter flights

It seems every month a new company is announcing nonstop flights to Cuba. People can now catch them from New York, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Atlanta ...and the list continues to grow.

The catch? Those are all charter flights that require a visa. To have a visa -- you guessed it –- people must fall into one of the 12 pre-approved travel groups.

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