Based on recent activity in Congress, the possibility of a shutdown of US federal government activities for at least a brief period of time is looming larger. The government is currently funded through December 22, 2017 and the prospect of a shutdown before the end of the year is growing.

Importers have asked how a partial shutdown would affect import activities. Below is a brief summary compiled from various sources and reflects what US Customs and Border Protection and other government agencies involved in import operations would likely do in the event of a shutdown. While CBP could always modify its plans in the future, this information, which is similar to what occurred during the federal government shutdown in 2013, can be useful as a planning tool for importers. A government shutdown would affect 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, would 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. Overall, cargo clearance operations would continue. CBP officers and agriculture specialists would continue to show up to work, but would 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. Since cargo clearance would continue, entry review screening for cargo security and screening for illegal imports would continue. Import specialists and entry specialists would continue to work and review entries, without pay. Foreign Trade Zone operations would continue. Centers for Excellence and Expertise would continue to operate, but national account managers would be furloughed. Employees not directly related to processing cargo (mainly at CBP HQ and regional offices) would be furloughed. As a result, some “non-essential” trade activity would stop, including:

  • No e-Allegations responses would be processed;
  • No antidumping/countervailing evasion targeting and auditing;
  • No processing of Jones Act waiver requests;
  • No prospective rulings, internal advice decisions or protest decisions would be issued by the Office of Regulations and Rulings;
  • No customs broker licenses would be issued;
  • No training of CBP officers would occur; or
  • No monitoring for textile fraud.

C-TPAT security validation visits/processing would not occur during a shutdown. C-TPAT members should contact C-TPAT if there are upcoming deadlines for clarification on the impact of any potential partial shutdown. ACE developments can continue for a few weeks based on existing funds, but no ACE training/tech support would be available during the shutdown. Deadlines for rulings and other decisions would also be potentially affected. Many decisions would only be published and available after the shutdown ended. There is still an evolving body of law about the effects of a shutdown on these decisions, but one case from the 2013 shutdown period may prove illustrative. In Best Key Textiles Co. Ltd. v. U.S., 942 F.Supp.2d 1367, 1374 (2013), the Court of International Trade found that the 60-day notice period prior to a ruling revocation became effective under 19 USC 1625 and began to run after actual publication of the Customs Bulletin (rather than running from its listed publication date earlier during the shutdown). This would likely extend to other deadlines for items in the Customs Bulletin. DHS and CBP will likely publish guidance as any shutdown looms.