FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) Step by Step Instructions

 

What is a FOIA?

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government (www.foia.gov).

What is the use of a FOIA request?

You may request a FOIA if you want to investigate aspects of your personal information that you may not remember. This is a broad spectrum, you may want to find out regarding your Immigration record, or perhaps your entries and exits from the country, or even to recover lost documents such as receipts, and applications. You may also request a FOIA to see your criminal record, or if you are doing a project or journalistic work and want statistics/ DATA directly from a governmental agency.

For the purposes of this page, we will focus on personal information regarding Immigration. The most common FOIA requests for immigrants, whether you are undocumented or not, are the following:

  • USCIS FOIA
    • Copy of your Alien file (A File), including all prior applications and filings, as well as records pertaining to your immigration detention
    • Asylum application files
    • Genealogy records (immigration records related to your family history, for example naturalization certificate files)
    • Certification of a nonexistence of a record
  • EOIR FOIA
    • You would file this FOIA if you are seeking information about immigration court.
      • If you think that you have been in immigration proceedings
      • If you have been in front of an immigration judge
      • Order of Deportations and Voluntary Departures.
      • Court, such as asylum cases or when you are in proceedings.
  • CBP FOIA
    • Records regarding Border Patrol operations, activities and interactions
    • Documents associated with traveling to and from the U.S. secondary searches or other travel-related issues
    • Documents associated with apprehensions at the border (in addition to the CBP FOIA you can request your FBI prints to see your CBP apprehensions)
  • ICE FOIA

    • Records on non citizens or detainees Information pertaining to human trafficking or smuggling.
    • Information pertaining to gangs.
    • Information pertaining to arrest reports or other records pertaining to ICE investigations.
    • Information pertaining to detention facilities.  
    • Information pertaining to ICE contracts .
    • Statistics on specific detention and removal facilities

 

Choose a FOIA request that best suits your purpose, you can also submit various FOIAs at the same time. Be aware that some FOIAs might charge you IF you have an extensive record, the fee might go up to $25. Usually the most important FOIAs are USCIS and EOIR. If you do not know what type of FOIA to submit, submit the USCIS and EOIR FOIA.

USCIS FOIA

  • Write a Cover Letter. It must contain your full name, current address or P.O. BOX, date of birth, place of birth and A# (USCIS number) if applicable. An example of the letter is shown below:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ogCTyvpOWD6wstU5aXPkf4nRgtROP3g0xQ1YdLdrEUQ/pub

  • Fill out form G-639. Please read the form correctly, you must fill it out truthfully. There is a section where it says to write the name that you enter the country with, if you used a different name, you should put that on the application. If you have used a different name to work, you should put that on the application under “Other Names” or if you have used part of your name. For example, if your name is Darya Ramos Hernandez, and you only use Darya Ramos, you should state that name.

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/g-639.pdf

An example of how to fill the form below:

https://dochub.com/karlaestradac3634ea2/qPeEwo/g-639?dt=kqig5zyebznd7mzp

  • Include Copy of your ID.

Organization:

  • Cover letter
  • Form G-639
  • Copy of ID

Send the Documents to (The address is also on the cover letter example I provided):

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

National Records Center, FOIA/PA Office

O. Box 648010

Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010

 

EOIR FOIA

  • Write a cover letter. The letter must include your full name, date of birth, and place of birth. Example of the letter below:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ltENdSDt_vUsJJ3C8ZVHhtJv1r9iITRNxnBlyRI-9LI/pub

  • Attach document DOJ 361 (Certification of Identity). Example Below:

https://dochub.com/karlaestradac3634ea2/MoD8MJ/doj361_-1?dt=fvg8fwr2l2dms75n

  • Fill out form G-639. Please read the form correctly, you must fill it out truthfully. There is a section where it says to write the name that you enter the country with, if you used a different name, you should put that on the application. If you have used a different name to work, you should put that on the application under “Other Names” or if you have used part of your name. For example, if your name is Darya Ramos Hernandez, and you only use Darya Ramos, you should state that name.

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/g-639.pdf

An example of how to fill the form below:

https://dochub.com/karlaestradac3634ea2/qPeEwo/g-639?dt=kqig5zyebznd7mzp

  • Include Copy of your ID.

Organization:

  • Cover letter
  • DOJ 361
  • Form G-639
  • Copy of ID

Send the Documents to (The address is also on the cover letter example I provided):

U.S. Department of Justice
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Office of General Counsel – FOIA Service Center
FOIA/Privacy Act Requests
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 1903
Falls Church, Virginia 22041

 

 

CBP FOIA

  • The CBP FOIA is electronic, meaning that you submit it online. It needs no cover letter.  Example of Form G-639 below:

https://dochub.com/karlaestradac3634ea2/qPeEwo/g-639?dt=kqig5zyebznd7mzp

  • In order to submit the CBP FOIA you have to fill out the application and print it. Afterwards you must scan the CBP FOIA and save it. Click the link below:

https://foiaonline.regulations.gov/foia/action/public/request/publicPreCreate

  • Click “Continue as Guest”
  • Drag it down where it says “Agency” and click “CBP FOIA Division”
  • Where it says “Request Type Division” click “FOIA”
  • Fill out your contact information
  • Where it says “Type of Records” you must choose the category that fits your needs best. Usually if you are trying to find out how many exits/entries you have you will click that option. You may also click Border Apprehensions/encounters.
  • On the Processing Fee section, type “$25”.
  • You may ignore the sections that say “On behalf of”
    • However fill out your Date of Birth, Alias (other names used), Alien number (if applicable) and your parent’s name.
  • On the “Description” you must be VERY SPECIFIC on the nature of your request. Usually this is the best option for our purposes “Requesting the complete record pertaining (your full name) regarding entries and exits (or apprehensions/encounters).
  • Click “NO” on “Request a Fee Waiver”
  • Click “NO” on “Request Expedited Processing”
  • Attach your supporting files (the G-639)
  • Click Preview, and after revising your information click submit.

 

ICE FOIA

  • Write a cover letter. The letter must include your full name, Alien Number if applicable and address or P.O. Box.  Example of the letter below:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17i7ijYMcGjNliU25I0gagOOlupzGycQ6tOHpFJexTuw/pub

  • Attach Document “Affirmation Declaration”. Example below”

https://dochub.com/karlaestradac3634ea2/NoQ9qv/affirmation-declaration?dt=hmoxn6ivrtj2otds

  • Fill out form G-639. Please read the form correctly, you must fill it out truthfully. There is a section where it says to write the name that you enter the country with, if you used a different name, you should put that on the application. If you have used a different name to work, you should put that on the application under “Other Names” or if you have used part of your name. For example, if your name is Darya Ramos Hernandez, and you only use Darya Ramos, you should state that name.

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/g-639.pdf

An example of how to fill the form below:

https://dochub.com/karlaestradac3634ea2/qPeEwo/g-639?dt=kqig5zyebznd7mzp

  • Include Copy of your ID.

Organization:

  • Cover letter
  • Affirmation Declaration
  • Form G-639
  • Copy of ID

Send the Documents to (The address is also on the cover letter example I provided):

FOIA OFFICE

U.S.  Immigration and customs Enforcement

800 North Capitol St., NW

5th Floor, Suite 585

Washington, DC 20536

 

Processing Times and How to Check your FOIA request

All FOIAs have different processing times, but they all may take up to a year.

  • USCIS FOIA
  • EOIR FOIA
    • 4-6 months on average
    • The EOIR FOIA request receipt can take up to 20 to 30 days to arrive to your home. Your USCIS FOIA receipt number will start with EOIR. You may check the status on the number below (please have your EOIR FOIA Receipt [Control] Number ready:
      • (703) 605-1297
  • CBP FOIA
    • Takes 4-5 months on average
    • The CBP FOIA request receipt will be sent to your email immediately. Your CBP FOIA receipt number will start start with CBP. You may check the status on the link below:
  • ICE FOIA
    • Takes 6-1 year on average
    • The ICE FOIA request receipt will be sent to your email, it can take 20 to 30 days. Your ICE FOIA receipt number will start with ICE or a derivative of DHS. You may check the status on the link below:

 

Additional Information and Sources

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/About%20Us/FOIA/uscisfoiarequestguide%2810%29.pdf

 

http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/immigration/FOIAguide.authcheckdam.pdf

 

https://www.ilrc.org/sites/default/files/resources/foiaadvisory_11.7.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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