Your guide to applying for information under FOIA


FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, is a law that provides the right to access information of the federal government. You are able to apply for whatever federal document you wish for. However, the Freedom of Information Act also accepts applications for the archives of the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Any person (undocumented people in the US, permanent residents, and citizens) are able to apply for a copy of their archives. The congress has establishes categories of information that cannot be disclosed when responding to an application associated with FOIA. Although it seems as if you are able to obtain any federal document, there are nine exceptions.


The first exception has to do with information that is classified in order to protect the national security. This material that is being requested has to be made classified through an Executive Order. The second exception is information with relations to the internal personnel rules and practices. The third exception is information that is prohibited through another federal law. Another exception is information that is related to trade secrets and/or confidential business information. The fifth exception is information regarding inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are protected by legal privileges. Another exception is information that could invade the personal privacy of another person, such as medical files. The seventh exception includes law enforcement records. Another exception is information regarding bank supervision. Lastly, the final exception is information regarding geological and geophysical information.


In order to obtain information under FOIA, you have to make an application. You would write the information that you want, in as much detail as you would like. Every agency has its own record in response to applications. See the list of federal agencies with the contact information for every agency. It is important that you know that every application needs to be handwritten. Also, you should include your telephone number on your application. After an agency receives your application, you will receive a letter with a statement of your application and the number of your assigned search number. If you would need to include more information, the agency would include that information in this letter. You can send your application over mail to:



U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Freedom of Information Act Office

400 12th Street, S.W., Stop 5009

Washington D.C. 20536-5009.

This information should never be used instead of seeking legal advice from an attorney. You should always discuss your case with an immigration attorney.