What the Government Shutdown Means for Imports

Shipping containers and equipment
The US Government has been under a partial shutdown since December 21, 2018, and it is anyone’s guess when the shutdown will end. Congress has recessed until this week, and there is little word of progress among the parties.

We have compiled a brief summary regarding what US Customs and Border Protection and other government agencies involved in import operations will likely do during a shutdown. We understand that CBP will issue guidance shortly. While CBP could always modify its processes, this information, which is similar to what occurred during the federal government shutdown in 2013, can be useful as a planning tool for importers until further guidance is issued.

Impacted Government Agencies: A government shutdown affects more than just CBP import operations. Other agencies — such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the United States Department of Agriculture, etc. — also have their import monitoring or import documentation processing operations affected. In fact, a shutdown of these activities could lead to cargo processing delays, as these agencies have “release and hold” authority over shipments independent of CBP.  CBP may use its discretion to process some cargo in the interim.

Cargo Clearance/Port Activity: Overall, cargo clearance operations is continuing. CBP officers and agriculture specialists continue to show up to work, but will not be paid during the shutdown. However, how port activities would function is a matter for individual ports. Importers should contact their brokers and forwarders for questions specific to a particular port.

Security Screening: Since cargo clearance continues, entry review screening for cargo security and screening for illegal imports also continues. Import specialists and entry specialists continue to work and review entries, without pay.

Foreign Trade Zones: Foreign Trade Zone operations continue.

Centers for Excellence and Expertise: CEEs continue to operate, but national account managers are furloughed.

CBP Headquarters/Regional Offices: Employees not directly related to processing cargo (mainly at CBP HQ and regional offices) are furloughed. As a result, some “non-essential” trade activity have stopped (e.g., issuing broker licenses, Jones Act exemptions and reviewing and issuing rulings).

C-TPAT: C-TPAT security validation visits/processing are not occurring during a shutdown. C-TPAT members should contact C-TPAT if there are upcoming deadlines for clarification on the impact of the partial shutdown.

ACE: ACE developments can continue for a few weeks based on existing funds, but no ACE training/tech support would be available during the shutdown.

Filing/Decision Deadlines: Deadlines for rulings and other decisions would also be affected. Many decisions would only be published and available after the shutdown ended.

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