U.S. Embassy to Issue Visas During Shutdown

MONROVIA, Montserrado – The ongoing partial U.S. government shutdown is likely to have limited impact on the operations of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia and American-funded development projects in the country.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia told The Bush Chicken in an email that despite the lapse in appropriations, the mission is continuing to carry out a range of excepted activities, including those for which funding was obligated prior to the shutdown.

“Consular operations, including visa and passport services, remain open,” the spokesman said.

“We continue to serve American Citizens who require routine services (including passports, reports of birth abroad, and notarial services) by appointment, on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.”

The spokesperson also added that the embassy is continuing to provide visa appointments as it was prior to the government shutdown.

However, some development programs funded by the U.S. government in Liberia will be partly affected. Most programs currently operational have already disbursed the necessary funds to begin or continue working. But USAID administrators have been explaining to contractors of projects not yet started that there will be a delay in the start of those projects due to the shutdown, which delayed disbursements of funds.

However, employees at USAID sponsored programs that had already received funding before the shutdown have reported delays with approvals of various aspects of their projects. That delay is due to the fact that about half of USAID’s 3,100 employees will be affected by the shutdown.

For 31 days, the U.S. government has experienced a partial shutdown after Congress refused to pass a President Donald Trump’s request to approve $5.7 billion to fund the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to prevent entry of drugs and illegal immigrants into the U.S.

CNN reported that the ongoing partial government shutdown is the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The previous was experienced in 1995 during Clinton’s administration which lasted for 21-days.

There is so far no sign when the shutdown will end, as House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats are rejecting President Trump’s new plan to end the appropriations lapse.

Trump is offering to extend support for legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants, including known holders of temporary protected status to end the shutdown, but still sticks to his demand for US$5.7 billion funding for the border wall.

Because of the shutdown, nearly 800,000 federal workers are working without pay or on a leave of absence.

John Campbell, former head of the political section of the U.S. Embassy in South Africa during the Clinton-era government shutdowns, disclosed in an article that except for diplomats who are regarded as essential staff, all federal employees at embassies that are locally engaged staff and usually nationals of the host country are also sent home on leave of absence and receive no compensation during government shutdowns.

“They include almost all of the administrative staff and most of the consular, economic, political and public diplomacy specialists who directly support the work of the professional diplomats and keep routine but essential operations running,” Campbell wrote.

He said the consequence of no pay can be devastating in a developing country, where most employees monthly earnings only caters to their monthly needs, with little or no personal savings.

Featured photo courtesy of Philip Marcelo

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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