If you’ve spent any time researching a trip to Cuba as an American, you’ve probably dipped your toes into the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), managed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), under the Department of the Treasury.  One of the most prevalent and ambiguous phrases within the various regulations is the full-time schedule.  Reviewing, as an example, 31 CFR §515.563 (2), a trip to Cuba for journalistic activity is authorized, provided that:

The traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.

So, what is a full-time schedule from the perspective of the OFAC?  Does it vary depending on the general license you are traveling under (professional meetings, educational activities, journalistic activity, etc)?  Based on my research, the term is never defined by the OFAC, and I suspect this is not an oversight.

By not defining the term, both parties (the traveler and the Treasury) have the opportunity to be flexible in regards to what a full-time schedule constitutes.  If the traveler clearly shows their trip was not for the purpose of tourism (by keeping appropriate records and engaging in activities pursuant to the license they are traveling under), the ambiguity could allow the Treasury to clear the traveler of any wrong doing, even though their schedule may have been a little light on one or two days (as a generic example).  On the other hand, if the Treasury suspects a traveler of simply being a tourist in Cuba, the ambiguity provides them with additional flexibility to pursue punishment for violating Federal regulations.

Now is a good time to note that I am not a lawyer, nor an expert on the Code of Federal Regulations.  As such, some of this is speculation, but backed by what I see as sound reason and logic.  Consult a lawyer specializing in these sorts of things as your situation warrants.

How then, are we to begin defining the amount of time necessary to meet the requirements of a full-time schedule?  I propose one should look at other departments within the U.S. government and review how they define full-time, most notably as it pertains to employment and enrollment in higher education.

Full Time Student

The IRS defines a full-time student as someone who:

is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance

This can certainly vary from school to school, but based on my research, most schools settle on the following:

  • Enrolling in twelve credit hours in a semester is considered full-time for a undergraduate student.
  • Enrolling in nine credit hours in a semester is considered full-time for a graduate student.

The lecture or seminar class is the most basic of college courses.  The U.S. Department of Education defines the work involved in a credit hour for a lecture or seminar as follows:

One lecture (taught) or seminar (discussion) credit hour represents 1 hour per week of scheduled class/seminar time and 2 hours of student preparation time.

Extrapolating this data, we can infer that a full-time schedule for a student is either 27 (graduate) or 36 (undergraduate) hours per week of work.  This breaks down to four to six hours a day, depending on one’s level of study.

Full Time Employment

Defining the number of hours required for full time employment varies depending on what part of the government you ask.  The Department of Labor does not provide a definition for full-time employment, noting:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define full-time employment or part-time employment. This is a matter generally to be determined by the employer.

This isn’t particularly helpful.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides better guidance:

Full time is 35 hours or more per week; part time is 1 to 34 hours per week.

Coming in on the lower end of the spectrum, Health and Human Services defines full-time employment as:

[a]ny employee who works an average of at least 30 hours per week for more than 120 days in a year.

The IRS supports this definition as it relates to the Affordable Care Act.

To summarize, depending on the government entity, full-time employment is defined as an hourly commitment of 30-35 hours per week, or roughly 5 hours a day.  This is consistent with the definitions above for a full-time student.

What Does this Mean for Cuba?

Erring on the side of caution, I will be operating under the assumption that a full-time schedule as it pertains to travel in Cuba is a minimum of 36 hours of authorized activities in a one week period.  Though not explicitly specified, the activities undertaken should be divided fairly evenly between the number of days one is staying on the island.  Engaging in all of your authorized activities on the first half of your trip and then ‘taking it easy’ for a few days would violate what is outlined by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.  One should shorten their trip if they are able to complete all authorized activities in a shorter amount of time.

When planning a trip, you should start by identifying the authorized activities you are planning on engaging in.  Determine a fair estimate of the time required to complete these activities.  Use this number to determine the number of days required for the trip, using five to six hours a day as your minimum baseline (again, I am not a lawyer or an expert in this field; caveat lector).

Personally, I will be taking a six day trip to Havana in November under the journalistic activity general license.  At a bare minimum, I will be engaging in 36 hours of authorized activities.  If possible I would like to get closer to 40-42 hours, but I want to leave some room for contingency should things not go exactly to plan (as they rarely do).