1st consideration – go to Cuba
If you haven’t done so already, visit Cuba. Get yourself familiar with the unique culture.
Your first business trip to the Island will be to introduce yourself and your business proposal, thus to get an overview of your new target market. Try to make as many appointments as you can with government representatives, civil servants, institutions and companies who can provide you with insight and guidance.
To explore or engage in business transactions in Cuba, travellers would need a business visa. To be involved in business operations in Cuba having entered the country with a Tourist visa card is in violation of Cuban Immigration regulations.
There are two types of business visas:
The visa to explore business opportunities in Cuba does not require a letter of invitation from a Cuban Company, but it requires provision of information to the Cuban Consulate on the purpose of the trip. With this visa travellers can contact Cuban business institutions or companies to hold preliminary meetings or state declarations of intention.
The visa to engage in business operations or transactions requires a letter of invitation from a Cuban Company or institution.
Both types of business visas (A-7 and D-7) are issued for a maximum stay of 30 days in Cuba. Extensions of business visas must be requested to the Immigration Directorate in Cuba by the Cuban interlocutor or counterpart company. (Cuban consulates)
2nd consideration – gather facts
Market research: As there are no benchmarks, you will need to research your market carefully and diligently. For that you will need support of Cuba based consultancies. Cuban consultancies are state owned and services are either fixed price, or negotiated and charged per deliverable (not per hour). As everywhere else in the world, there are good and not so good consultancies in the country. Always ask for references of similar work, or ask someone you trust to recommend the right consultancy.
3rd consideration – re-evaluate your business ideas
Be clear on your vision: Come prepared with a clear and structured presentation, outlining in plain language (Spanish) the core of your business. You will need to get government officials on your side and behind your idea, otherwise you will not go very far. To get in contact to the right government officials you will need some local support.
In preparation put yourself in a Dragons’ Den / Shark Tank situation, where you confidently need to pitch your business ideas whilst showing good command of your numbers.
Coming back from your business trip you will certainly be loaded with new impressions and eventually new ideas. Stay flexible in your vision and adapt to new input. Cuba is different and will require you to think differently.
4th consideration – find a local partner
Get a companion/partner/associate: If possible don’t start your journey alone, get an ally who knows the culture, local regulations and who also understands your vision and goals. The road can be tiring and when hard times come and you’re about to give up, your will need a partner who helps finding solutions and keeps you upbeat.
Communication from the outside is still an issue in Cuba. Don’t expect access to phone and Internet services as widespread as in your own country. A local partner can help you to follow-up and drive negotiations from the inside.
5th consideration – get your legal documentation in order
Documents required for the presentation of businesses
In order to take legal effects in Cuba, all the financial and legal documentation must be authenticated by the various entities of the country concerned, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the consular office of the Cuban Embassy in the business person’s country of origin and must be translated into Spanish, in case they have been written in another language. Later the documents must be authenticated in Cuba by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX by its Spanish acronyms) and registered before a Notary Public in the notarial offices attached to the Legal Services and Civil Societies.