In addition to federal workers impacted by the current government shutdown, companies who rely on the federal government to support their import/export compliance are also feeling the impact. We thought it might be helpful to provide the status of the various government agencies involved with assisting importers and exporters during this shutdown.
Please Note: This blog was originally published on January 15, 2019 and updated again on January 28, 2019. As of Monday, January 28, the agencies and websites below appear to be operating as normal. The information below is provided as historical reference only and is believed to be accurate as of the date of this blog post. Always refer to the U.S. government agency websites for the most up-to-date and accurate information.
Department of Commerce – Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
Officially, the U.S. Department of Commerce is closed due to the lapse of funding. Websites are not being updated. BIS has explained that services are significantly curtailed, which includes export licenses, advisory opinions, and commodity classifications. There is some assistance for transactions that provide direct support to the U.S. military, humanitarian aid or other similar emergencies. Any requests that were received by BIS prior to the shutdown will remain in pending status. Furthermore, SNAP-R is suspended until after restoration of funding. No new electronic submissions are being accepted.
Department of State – Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC)
Effective Thursday, January 24, 2019, the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) will temporarily return to full operational status with all electronic application systems placed in normal operational mode and the 3pm daily pick-up and drop-off service restored. Priority will be placed on issuance of licenses in the system at the time of implementation of lapse of funding operations on December 22, 2018. New licenses will be accepted; however, industry is advised of the likelihood of longer than normal processing times due to the high volume of licenses DDTC expects to receive. The “Emergency License” process described in DDTC’s December 22, 2018 announcement is hereby suspended.
Department of Commerce – Bureau of Census (Census)
As noted above, the U.S. Department of Commerce including the Bureau of Census, Foreign Trade Division, is closed during the shutdown. No telephone support or website updates are being provided.
Department of the Treasury – Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
The Financial Sanctions including the Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) will continue to be updated during the shutdown. However, the OFAC Hotline and email assistance is not in operation.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Ports of entry are open and the movement of cargo continues as before. During the shutdown, however, CBP is not updating their website and it has been noted that they are also not actively working on any rulings or 301 tariff exclusion requests. CBP headquarters, regional offices and Centers for Excellence are open, albeit employees not directly working on processing cargo may be furloughed.
Consolidated Screening List
The consolidated restricted parties screening list was unavailable during the shutdown. As of January 28, this site appears to be working again. The following message was posted on the website previously: “Due to a lapse in appropriations, Export.Gov, Selectusa.Gov and Stopfakes.Gov and all associated online activities will be unavailable until further notice.”
Other Agency Information
The U.S. International Trade Commission charged with managing the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S. (HTSUS) has ceased regular operations during the shutdown. Therefore, the trade community does not have access to the 2019 searchable online tool until the USITC returns. In addition, there is no Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) training or technical support available during the shutdown.
Unfortunately, many exporters and importers are in limbo with being able to obtain any licensing or other required government authorizations during the shutdown. If you have a transaction that involves direct support to the U.S. military, humanitarian aid, or other similar emergencies, you can reach out to the various agencies for specific instructions for assistance.
Rebecca Yeager is a Trade Compliance Consultant for Export Solutions -- a full-service consulting firm that specializes in helping companies comply with U.S. and international import/export regulations.