FILING A FOIA REQUEST
FIND OUT WHAT THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS ABOUT YOU.
You do have a right in the U.S. to obtain copies of any information that USCIS has on you. There are some cases when you as a national of an overseas country applies for a working visa, a green card, or another immigration benefit and have your application denied because information is discovered by the USCIS or another government agency about the person that you didn’t know existed.
The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, enables you to see the content of any information or documents U.S. immigration officers have gathered about you and you may request a copy of the relevant file which is called an “A file.” These sorts of FOIA requests may be of great importance when something earlier in your life could have an effect on the outcome of an application and you wish to seek naturalization or you are in a situation where removal proceedings have been submitted to you and you want to see what proof that this is justified. If you are hiring an immigration attorney the information you are permitted to access under the FOIA may help considerably in your defense.
Submit a FOIA Request once you know what information you require
This should not be done until you have worked out what information you need. If you are seeking dates for when you entered or exited the country in the previous 10 years, this information will be located in your a file. The chances are that if you have an immigration issue and you have hired an attorney to help you it might be necessary to request all the information held about you which is stored in your file so that your attorney knows what your history in relation to migration is and where you stand today.
FOIA’s from USCIS can be filed in any format, but it is best to use Form G-639. Complete the form and send (by mail, fax or email) to:
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.
If you need further help completing Form G-639, click here.
There are several immigration agencies that may have your information
Normally information held in your A file can be made accessed by requesting it through the USCIS. However, some records, such as the history of your arrival and departure dates into the United States, customs records, charges related to removability or deportability are filed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
You must have a reason for wanting your file
The reason has to be put down in your FOIA request but if your life or freedom is likely to be an issue the relevant department may be able to speed up your access to A file. It could be your life could be under threat if you were to return to your home country. In this case you may wish to file an application for asylum which may mean you need a quick response. The USCIS has a strict system in place for FOIA requests which are
simple requests which can gain approval in 20 days;
complex requests which need at least 30 days or more to complete;
a “fast track” request is when the person has been handed document related to removal proceedings which is a “Notice to Appear” before an immigration judge.
One recent opening for submitting your FOIA request is to access the website for the Department of Homeland Security, where an FOIA Request Submission Form can be located. This allows you to select from a menu a USCIS or other relevant immigration-related agency.
How To Check the Status of your FOIA or Privacy Act Request
You can check the status of your USCIS FOIA online at the FOIA Request Status Check page, by entering the Control Number that was provided to you after the receipt of your FOIA request.
The control number will begin with the letters NRC, COW, APP, etc.
The FOIA request status check will tell you whether your request for information was processed or remains pending:
If it was processed within the last six months, the system will show the date. If your request is pending, the status will indicate the position of your request relative to all other pending USCIS requests in the same processing track.
Status information is updated on a daily basis.
Back to Immigration Knowledge Center.