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How can I send money to someone in a country with sanctions?

Sending money worldwide has never been easier — but what can you do when loved ones are in a country with sanctions?

Unfortunately, the world’s politics can stand in the way of your help to friends and family in sanctioned countries.

Sanctions take into consideration the political climate of a country, its human rights record and the people and organizations within it that the US government wants to avoid financially supporting.

The US currently has economic sanctions on countries like Iran, North Korea and Syria. While you may discover options to get around these sanctions to support friends and family, the US Department of the Treasury considers these options illegal.

A note on Myanmar and Côte d’Ivoire

After many years of sanctions against Myanmar (sometimes called Burma) and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the US officially announced that its long-standing trade sanctions against these countries would be lifted in September 2016.

That said, many banks and money transfers have yet to establish themselves in these countries. Before you complete your transfer, first confirm that your selected provider is able to fully deliver your funds.

Sanctioned nations

With an easing of sanctions against Myanmar (Burma) and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in September 2016, four countries remain sanctioned by the United States:

  • Cuba. The US originally placed economic sanctions on Cuba in 1962, when Fidel Castro came to power in a communist revolution. However, sanctions on Cuba have lifted to include sending money to family members by blood, marriage or adoption — with limitations.
  • Iran. The US sanctioned Iran after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, further expanding economic sanctions when Iran refused to give up its uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons.
  • North Korea. The US has no diplomatic relations with North Korea due to that country’s lack of democracy, freedom and basic human rights.
  • Syria. The US government has considered Syria a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1979. Economic sanctions were put on the country as civil war swept throughout the nation and President Assad was accused of supporting terrorist groups and violating Syrians’ basic human rights.

Sending money to sanctioned countries — and the potential consequences

There are ways that people have chosen to get around these economic sanctions. But we stress that doing so is illegal and exposes you to severe legal and financial penalties.

If you choose to route your money through a country that doesn’t have sanctions against your intended destination — the UK, for example — you could be charged by the US with money laundering.

What is money laundering?

Money laundering is any activity that illegally obtains money and attempts to conceal the source, destination or identity of those funds. In the US, money laundering is illegal under federal and state laws.

The specific laws about what constitutes money laundering and its prosecution may differ. However, if you’re convicted of money laundering crimes, you face years in prison and significant fines.

If you hold a bank account in another country as a resident of that nation, research the rules in place for sending money to a sanctioned nation from that account.

Note that the US has the discretion to grant you special permission to send money to family members in countries like Cuba and Iran. You must be able to prove that your funds are not for commercial purposes, and how much you send could be limited.

When in doubt

If you’re in doubt as to whether you can send money to send money to sanctioned countries, always assume that transferring funds from the US to a sanctioned nation is illegal unless a lawyer tells you otherwise. As the US Treasury advises, “You cannot do something indirectly that you would not be able to do directly.”

For more information about sending money to these countries, look into your state’s laws on money laundering, the US Treasury’s updated list of sanctioned nations and the laws that dictate where your bank can make transfers.

Compare money transfer services here and see supported countries.

Frequently asked questions

What countries are under US sanctions right now?

As of August 2021, countries sanctioned by the US are Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Burma, the Ivory Coast and Iran.

What are economic sanctions?

Economic sanctions are commercial and financial penalties that can include trade barriers and restrictions on spending money in another country.

How can I send money to a sanctioned country online?

Some money transfer websites offer the option to send money to sanctioned countries. However, the US considers transferring funds to sanctioned countries online or through a third party illegal.

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6 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    FRANKJuly 3, 2018


      Default Gravatar
      AshJuly 4, 2018

      Hi Frank,

      Thank you for visiting Finder.

      Zelle can only be used in transferring money from bank to bank within the United States. Unfortunately, you cannot use it to send money to your brother’s bank account in Ukraine.

      Thankfully, there are money transfer service providers that help you send money to Ukraine. These providers cost less than banks.

      I hope this helps.

      Let us know if there is anything else that we may assist you with.


    Default Gravatar
    MelissaMarch 20, 2018

    Someone in Syria is wanting to send over 100,000 to a friend of mine in the United States. I’m wondering can she get in trouble for that? The person in Syria says he plans on sending it in cash inside of a box with some sort of a combination lock. Is this illegal?

      Default Gravatar
      joelmarceloMarch 22, 2018

      Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

      You may send cash through the mailing system. However, we recommend using personal checks or money transfers when transmitting funds for any reason. If you prefer to send cash you should take advantage of our registry service, which provides maximum security and indemnity against loss.

      Please note that The US government has considered Syria a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1979. Economic sanctions were put on the country as civil war swept throughout the nation and President Assad was accused of supporting terrorist groups and violating the basic human rights of Syrians.


    Default Gravatar
    DianahwoodsFebruary 20, 2018

    Please why is it that if you are in somerset kentucky..You are not allowed to send money to Ghana..My uncle is in somerset kentucky and he is not allowed to send me money

      Default Gravatar
      nikkiangcoMarch 12, 2018

      Hi Diana!

      Welcome to finder!

      Sorry to hear about this, I know how frustrating this can be.

      You can send money from the US to Ghana using the money transfer options we have on the website.
      Here is the link.

      There are also pick up options on how to send money to Ghana, such as Accra, Kumasi, and Sekondi-Takoradi. You’ll be able to see the exact locations at the bottom page.

      Here’s some information on how to send money to Ghana.

      You have multiple options to send money to Ghana from the US.

      1. Bank transfers. Your major US banks may allow you to wire money to banks in Ghana.
      2. Providers with cash pickup. Companies like Western Union and MoneyGram offer several cash pickup centers in Ghana
      3. Money transfer specialists. WorldRemit and other companies let you transfer money to Ghanaian bank accounts. And because they’re trusted partners of, World First and OFX is offering our readers an exclusive deal of $0 in fees.
      4. PayPal. Electronic payment giant PayPal allows you to send money from the US to Ghana.
      5. M-Pesa. M-Pesa is a safe, secure way to send, receive and store money through your mobile phone or an app. Top up your account at one of more than 287,000 agent locations and then send money to loved ones, who can visit an agent to withdraw their funds.

      Steps to send money to Ghana
      1. Register for an account with a provider, supplying your name, address, contact details, proof of ID and information about your selected payment method.
      2. Supply your recipient’s name, contact information and bank account details as required.
      3. Enter the amount of your transfer and complete the transaction.
      4. Keep track of any receipt you receive so you can monitor the progress of your transfer.

      Hope this helps!

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