After five decades of embargo that restricted travel to Cuba, the U.S. government loosened its grip in 2011 with the "people-to-people" program, designed to promote meaningful cultural exchange between the countries. Obtaining a visa, however, may still prove difficult for Americans.
Hundreds of travel-service providers applied for tour permits in 2012, yet only a fraction of the applications have been approved by the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control. Lacking permits, many tour operators are being forced to cancel and refund sold-out trips. A U.S. official blamed staffing issues and backlogged paperwork for the delays. The permit application increased from six pages to more than 100 pages this year.
Re Cuba item, thanks for running it but permit me to correct a few mistakes:
1) It is not an issue of "visas". Cuban visas can be obtained at check in on any flight from a third country to Cuba, e.g. Cayman Islands, Nassau, etc.
2) "Travel service providers" are a different problem. They are used by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to police travel. There are only 250 and most are Cuban American located in Florida. Their near monopoly can be ended by the President.
3) The tour operators who are being denied renewals or original licenses are people to people trip organizers.
4) The only reason there are staffing issues and backlogged paperwork are that OFAC is led by a Bush appointee and is responding to hard line Cuban Americans in Congress who oppose all travel to Cuba because it discredits their position.
The White House must intervene and save the President's important initiative to open non-tourist travel to Cuba. This is how he can do it: http://signon.org/sign/remove-bureaucratic-obstacle.
Fund for Reconciliation and Development.