Western Union Unable to Send and Process Remittances to Cuba — What Can You Do?

Days before Thanksgiving in 2020, Western Union announced it was no longer able to process remittances to Cubans from those outside the island country due to sanctions originating from the U.S. Treasury Department. It’s estimated that Western Union and Fincimex (the Cuban financial company associated with Western Union) processed around one in five remittances from the U.S. to Cubans. This has forced, and will continue to force, those looking to send money to relatives in Cuba to find other ways to legally send remittances. 

Background

In June 2020, the U.S. government announced that it would place Fincimex, which is Western Union’s counterpart in Cuba, on the Cuba Restricted List due to its alleged connections with Gaesa. Gaesa is a holding company with extensive ties to the Cuban government through its military endeavors. The U.S. government went through with the sanction, and the change with Western Union went into effect on Nov. 23, 2020. 

Though a new administration is set to take office on Jan. 20, 2021, it’s unlikely that these positions will be reversed quickly. In the meantime, how can the nearly 1.5 million Cuban Americans living in Florida, many of whom have family members still living in Cuba, send money to those relatives—who need the funds now more than ever due to the flagging tourism industry? 

Travel Directly to Cuba

Even before the U.S. government blacklisted Fincimex and, by extension, Western Union, many Cuban Americans preferred to simply deliver remittances by hand to friends and family in Cuba. The COVID-19 pandemic, which made these remittances all the more important to Cubans, temporarily halted this route. Fortunately for these individuals, the Havana airport opened in mid-November 2020. If you feel comfortable traveling amid the pandemic, you should consider sending the money with a trusted third party who regularly travels to Cuba. 

Reloading an Existing AIS Card

There are plenty of Cuban Americans who don’t know anyone they trust to physically transfer remittances to relatives in Cubans. Fortunately, Cubans will generally be able to keep their existing AIS cards. There are more than a few financial companies (not on the Cuba Restricted List) that offer services to reload funds onto these cards. However, you will not be able to create a new AIS card through Western Union/Fincimex going forward. 

Key Considerations Before Sending Remittances

If you, like countless other Cuban Americans, are looking for another service to send money to your relatives in Cuba after the blacklisting of Western Union/Fincimex, there are important aspects of the service to address. For instance, you need to consider: 

  • Exchange rates and fees
  • Transfer structures and methods offered
  • Minimum transfer amounts
  • Methods for pickup in Cuba

Almost as soon as relations thawed between the U.S. and Cuba and money started flowing more freely, restrictions began popping up again. This latest development is bound to make it more difficult for numerous U.S. citizens and residents to send remittances—including inheritances—to Cubans. Zamora, Hillman & Villavicencio is one of only a few law firms in the Miami area that is able to effectively (and legally) structure remittances to Cubans. If you have money you want to send, we can help you accomplish this. Get in touch with us here today to set up a consultation soon. 

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Zamora, Hillman & Villavicencio

Our firm deals with legal matters involving your loved ones, and our familial operation is prepared to give you caring and effective counsel during what might be a difficult or emotional time.

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