NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The United States and Cuba re-opened embassies in each other's capitals on Monday, restoring full diplomatic relations for the first time since they were cut off in the midst of the Cold War 54 years ago. No formal celebration is planned Monday at the former U.S. Interests Section, now officially the U.S. Embassy, in Havana. Instead, a flag-raising ceremony will take place in August, presided over by Secretary of State John Kerry.
The change means diplomats from both the U.S. and Cuba have more freedom to travel and more U.S. citizens who fit within 12 pre-approved travel categories can visit Cuba without getting a special license from the U.S. Treasury. Those groups include people traveling for family visits, journalistic activity, religious purposes, humanitarian projects, public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and others. Travel for pure tourism, however is still technically prohibited for now.
The relaxation of restrictions also means U.S. financial firms can work with Cuban banks, and some exports are now approved. However, the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba remains in place. That embargo is controlled by Congress, which has not yet voted power to lift it despite President Obama's urging. Under that embargo, only a limited number of U.S. companies can do business in Cuba.
According to the Worldwide Visa Bureau, there are two types of U.S. business visas that can be obtained for Cuba: A visa to explore business opportunities in the country requires a provision of information to the Cuban Consulate on the purpose of the trip. A visa to engage in business operations or transactions requires a letter of invitation from a Cuban company. Both are issued for a maximum stay of 30 days in Cuba.