A U.S. and Cuban flag hang from the same balcony in Old Havana, Cuba, Dec. 19, 2014.
Photo by Ramon Espinosa/AP

White House eases restrictions on Cuba travel, transactions

The White House announced Tuesday that it plans to allow “people to people” educational travel to Cuba, permit the country’s citizens to earn salaries in the U.S. and make it easier to use American currency in financial transactions with Cuba.

The lifting of such restrictions come roughly a week before President Barack Obama is scheduled to travel to Cuba next week—the first sitting American president to visit that nation in nearly 90 years.

“Today’s steps build on the actions of the last 15 months as we continue to break down economic barriers, empower the Cuban people and advance their financial freedoms, and chart a new course in U.S.-Cuba relations,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement.

The steps follow the president’s call to normalize relations and economic ties between the two countries after decades of Cold War hostilities. The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with the communist island country in 1961.

In December 2014, Obama announced that the U.S. was ending an “outdated approach” of isolating Cuba, and in May the U.S. dropped Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In July, Cuban officials inaugurated their embassy in Washington and, in August, the American flag was hoisted over the U.S. Embassy in Cuba.

Last month U.S. officials signed an aviation pact restoring scheduled airline service between the United States and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years. 

This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.


Cuba and Havana

White House eases restrictions on Cuba travel, transactions