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How to Make a FOIA or PA Request

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, provides that any person has a right to request access to immigration records, except those records exempted by the Act (e.g., classified national security, business proprietary, personal privacy, and investigative).

The Privacy Act of 1974 (PA), 5 U.S.C. § 552(a) provides legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens a right to protection of and access to records filed and retrieved by their name or personal identifier.

As required by the FOIA, ALL REQUESTS MUST BE SUBMITTED IN WRITING.  Form G-639 may be used for this purpose, but is not required.  A link to this form can be found on this page.  A letter including the criteria below is sufficient.  Requests must be for access to existing records.  The FOIA/PA Program Office will not “create” records for the purpose of a FOIA or PA request.  The following four steps outline “How to Make a FOIA or PA Request:”


1. On your written request, include a daytime phone number so that we may contact you.  Fees in searching, copying and reviewing records may apply, see below.

2. Provide as much information as possible on the subject matter.  This will help expedite the search process.

3. Verification of Identity, Guardianship, Accompanying Persons, and Amendment requests are requirements for making a request for records of a personal nature.  Requests for disclosure of records on individuals other than yourself require consent or proof of death.

4. Mail requests for USCIS records to the National Records Center, FOIA/PA Office, P. O. Box 648010, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010.

5. Effective immediately, USCIS no longer collects Social Security Numbers in connection with FOIA or PA requests.  When forwarding any documents to USCIS related to a FOIA or PA request, please ensure all Social Security Numbers are blanked out or removed


Mail requests for human resources information to:  Customs and Border Protection, Burlington Human Resources Office, 70 Kimball Avenue, South Burlington, VT 05403-6813.

Certifications:  Certification of Nonexistence of a Record involves an agency decision.  Requests for this service should be addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, ATTN: Records Services Branch, 111 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20529.


Expedited Processing of FOIA Requests:

Generally, USCIS processes FOIA requests on a first-in/first-out basis.   FOIA requests may be taken out of order and processed on an expedited basis only if USCIS determines that the request involves  (1) circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to someone’s life or physical safety, or (2) an urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged federal government activity and the request is made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information.  See 6 C.F.R. 5.5(d).      

Every request for expedited processing must be accompanied by a statement from the requester setting forth in detail the reasons why expedited processing is warranted.  The requester must also certify that the reasons given in support of expedited processing are true and correct to the best of the requester’s knowledge and belief.  Requests for expedited processing that are not properly certified will not be considered. 

Within ten calendar days of receiving a request for expedited processing, USCIS will notify the requester of its decision whether to grant or deny the request.  If a request for expedited treatment is granted, the FOIA request will be given priority and processed as soon as practicable.  If the request for expedited processing is denied, the requester may appeal the decision.  Please refer to the “Appeals of Adverse Determinations” section for further information regarding the appeal process.


Appeals of Adverse Determinations:

A requester dissatisfied with a determination by USCIS to deny a FOIA request in any respect may appeal the determination to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, National Records Center, FOIA/PA Appeals Office, Suite 500, 150 Space Center Loop, Lee's Summit, MO 64064-2139.  Appeals must be in writing and must be received by the FOIA/PA Appeals Office within 60 days of the date of the letter denying the request.   The appeal letter should clearly identify the adverse determination that is being appealed, as well as the assigned FOIA request number, if known.   For expeditious handling, the appeal letter and the envelope should be marked “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.”


Requests are deemed to constitute an agreement to pay any applicable fees that may be chargeable up to $25.00 without notice.  Most requests do not require any fees; however, if fees exceed $25.00, we will notify you beforehand.  Do not submit fees with initial requests.

Last updated: 04/14/2008

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