FIND OUT WHAT THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS ABOUT YOU.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) provides a user-friendly form for making a FOIA request, which is called Form G-639. It is divided into a number of sections. Section 1 is where you fill in the type of request and if you are not a citizen of the U.S. or a permanent resident and you wish to file a request for your personal immigration file, you must mark the “Freedom of Information Act” box for non-U.S. citizens/Lawful Permanent Residents.
Section 2 asks for a more precise description of the information required.
It is in Sections 3 and 4 that the FOIA allows the person requesting the information to submit a request on behalf of someone else. The person whose information is being accessed must give consent before this action can take place. This situation normally arises when an immigration attorney is working on behalf of a client and believes it is important to access their client’s immigration file. The person must give consent through either a sworn affidavit or in front of a notary public before the FOIA request can be lodged.
Submitting Form G-639
Before submitting the form you should check the current address on the USCIS website. It is not necessary to pay a filing fee.
You may think that USCIS does not have the information you require and it is held either by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection. In this situation you should file individual requests to the two different agencies. Contact a lawyer to make sure, otherwise you may be wasting your time.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
National Records Center, FOIA/PA Office
P. O. Box 648010
Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010
Live Assistance: 1-800-375-5283
Fax (802) 288-1793 or (816) 350-5785
FOIA requests can also be made online.
Processing of the request
U.S. immigration officials do not charge a fee to individual requesters for the first 100 pages of immigration records. Immigration officials have been offering on a compact disc at no cost digitally scanned complete files of a person’s immigration file. Currently, if the final cost for locating and finding FOIA requests comes to more than $14, immigration officials may ask for payment.
Length of time to complete an FOIA Request
As long as you are not about to be removed from the country or life is not under threat it will take about 30 days to complete a “simple” FOIA request and up to 50 days for a more complex request.
If the request is urgent FOIA request may only take 20 to 30 days to complete. If you are in this situation you must provide a good explanation with supporting evidence to illustrate that your life and freedom are threatened in the absence of the FOIA requested information. If immigration court proceedings are underway you should provide a copy of the Notices of Hearing or Notices to Appear with your request.
FOIA requests do help to put into perspective some of the complexities of U.S. immigration and are particularly useful if you are hiring an experienced immigration attorney to work on your behalf who will have a better understanding of your position by using the FOIA.
After you receive the FOIA, it is important for you to be able to understand the documents in it, and what their relevance and significance are. For example, a notation of G-56, or written pages questions between a husband and wife may be an indication that USCIS suspects the marriage is fraudulent. It may be wise to contact a lawyer for help in understanding what you’ve just received.