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HOW TO: Make A FOIA Request

How to use the Freedom of Information Act to request a copy of your A-File (or Alien File) from Immigration to see all documents and other information that the U.S. Government has regarding your past immigration filings, entries, stops by immigration,

Search Records

Search previously released records before submitting a request using the DHS FOIA Library & FOIA Logs.

FOIA libraries maintained for components by the DHS Privacy Office can be found here.

FOIA Reports

The DHS Privacy Office published the Annual FOIA Report and the Chief FOIA Officer Report.

Annual FOIA Reports  Includes Component-specific and Department-wide data on FOIA processing, including the number of FOIA requests received and processed, average response times, and backlogs.

Chief FOIA Officer Reports  Documents actions taken by the Department to advance transparency and to ensure DHS effectively administers FOIA.

USCIS FOIA REQUEST

You must complete a Form G-639 .

Type your responses or write them in black ink. If you do not know the information requested, the request
could be delayed or the documents provided in response to the request could be incomplete.

It should be self-explanatory for the most part but you can find step-by step guidance for completing the form below.


A. Part 1: Type of Request

Item 1a – b: Check the box that describes the request type. You should only check one box.

 

Part 2: Requester Information


Item 1: Check the Yes box if you are requesting your own records. Attorneys or representatives who are filling
out the G-639 on behalf of their clients should check the No box. In these cases, the attorney is the requester,
or the requester’s representative.


If you are seeking your own records, skip the remainder of the questions in Part 2 (items 2a – 7b). Requesters
seeking records on behalf of someone else should complete all of Part 2.

 


Items 2.a. – 2.c. Representative Role to the Subject of Record In this item, specify whether you are an attorney, accredited representative, or family member. The 6/20/19 version of this form only allows for these three options, with no box for “other.” However, there is nothing in the statute that restricts FOIA requests to someone who is related to or represents the subject. If an individual is filing a FOIA request in a different capacity, she may want to submit a letter request instead of using the G639 for this reason.

Items 4.a. – 4.c. Requester’s Full Name
Enter the full legal name of person requesting the file.


Items 5.a. – 5.i. Requester’s Mailing Address
✓ In Care of Name (if any): Write the name of the person or agency receiving the documents, if someone
other than the requester.


✓ Street Number, Street Name, City, State, Zip Code: Write the full address of the requester. The
address can be either a mailing address (including a post office box) or a residential address. If the
requester is the same person as the subject, we strongly recommend using a mailing address instead
of a residential address.


✓ Province: If the mailing address is within the United States then in the province box write “N/A.” If the
mailing address is outside the United States and the country uses the province system, then write the
name of the province where correspondence should be delivered.


✓ Postal Code: If the mailing address is within the United States, then write “N/A” in the postal code box.
If the documents will be mailed to a country that uses the postal code system, then write the postal
code where correspondence should be delivered.


✓ Country: Write the name of the country where the mailing address is located. If the address is within
the United States, then write, “United States.”

Items 6. – 8. Requester’s Contact Information
✓ Requester’s Daytime Telephone Number: Write the requester’s telephone number where she can be
reached. 

✓ Requester’s Mobile Telephone Number (if any): Write the requester’s cell phone number if it is
different from the daytime phone number.


✓ Requester’s Email Address (if any): Write the requester’s email address, if she has one.


To avoid delays caused by communication problems, include only telephone numbers that are regularly
checked and not likely to change in the foreseeable future. If including an email address, only include one that is regularly checked.


Items 9.a. – 9.b. Requester’s Certification

By signing, the requester agrees to pay all costs for the search, duplication, and review of the documents up to $25.00, when applicable. DHS will not charge for the first two hours of research or the first 100 pages copied. Requester will be notified in advance if there will be any charges. See § 3.7.

✓ Requester’s Signature: The requester should sign her complete name here with the date. A stamped
or typed name in place of a signature will not be accepted.

Persons representing the subject and signing the form as the requester should include a completed Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representation.

Part 3: Description of Records Requested


Item 1: Purpose


This portion is optional, but specificity can help identify the record needed and speed up the response in some instances. Providing a general purpose may assist DHS in locating the file. It is best to be specific, but do NOT reveal anything about immigration strategy or any facts that the subject does not want the government to
know. For example, if seeking information about whether the government has any evidence that the subject
may have used a false document when they applied for an immigration benefit, do not disclose this possibility on the FOIA request by writing that the purpose is to search for records related to the subject’s use of fraudulent documents. Instead, write something simple, such as “requesting immigration records for personal
review.”


Items 2.a – 2.c: Full Name of the Subject of Record
✓ Family Name – Write the subject’s current last name.
✓ Given Name – Write the subject’s current first name.
✓ Middle Name – Write the Subject’s current middle name.

 

Items 3.a – 4.c: Other Names Used by the Subject of Record
✓ Other Names Used – List any names or permutations that the subject has ever used. If the subject has
used more than one “other name,” include the additional name(s) in Part 5

Additional Information
(discussed below). Include any maiden name, the adding/dropping of a middle initial, or the adding or dropping of the mother’s last name. For example, if the subject’s legal name (as it appears on her
birth certificate or other legal document) is Juana Morales Gonzales, and she often goes by “Juana
Morales,” she should add “Juana Morales” as another name used. If the subject has not used other
names, write “N/A” in each box. If the subject is looking to find records in their file under a different
name, even a fake name that they used in the past, add that name as well.


Items 5.a. – 5.c: Full Name of the Subject of Record at Time of Entry into the United States
Include the subject’s complete name when they entered the United States. This may be the same as the
subject’s current full name.

Items 6.a. – 9: Other Information About the Subject of Record
✓ Form I-94 Number Arrival-Departure Record: If the subject entered with a visa, they may have received a little white card called Form I-94 from CBP upon entering the country that looks similar to the picture below. If they received certain forms of immigration relief, such as U nonimmigrant status, she should
have received a paper I-94 in the mail from USCIS. Write in the subject’s eleven-digit I-94 number. If
the subject does not know the number or is unsure if they ever had an I-94, write “Unknown.” If the
subject is sure they do not have one (this will be the case for anyone who entered without papers and
has never had immigration status), write “None.”

 

If the information the subject seeks relates to a specific entry, provide the I-94 number for that entry and
explain the request in the Additional Information section.
If the subject was admitted into the United States by CBP at an airport or seaport after April 30, 2013, she was
likely issued an electronic Form I-94. To retrieve a paper version of Form I-94, visit CBP’s website at
http://www.cbp.gov/i94.

✓ Passport/Travel Document: Enter the number of the travel document used to enter the United States
here.
✓ Alien Registration Number (A-Number): The A-number is the single most important item of information
to help DHS locate the Subject’s A-file. A person usually has an alien registration number (A-number)
only if they have been in contact with immigration authorities, filed an immigration petition, or had a
certain type of immigration case in the past. This number begins with an “A” and is generally seven,
eight, or nine digits long. If the subject has an A-number, write it in the appropriate box. If the subject
does not remember their A-number or is unsure if they have one, write “Unknown.” If the subject does
not have one, write “None.” Sometimes people who have had multiple interactions with immigration
authorities have multiple A-numbers. In this case, be sure to include all of the additional A-numbers in
Additional Information.
If the subject does not know their A-number, then more identifying information should be provided to
assist the government in locating the file. If a subject does not have an A-number, their presence
might not be known by DHS, and DHS might not have any records on that person.
✓ USCIS Online Account Number (if any): The subject has a USCIS Online Account Number if they have
previously filed any application, petition, or request to USCIS using its online filing system (previously
known as USCIS ELIS). They may have also received a USCIS Online Account Number on a USCIS
Online Account Access Notice if they filed an application, petition, or request to a USCIS Lockbox
facility by mail. For more information on how to find the USCIS Online Account Number, if it applies, please review the applicable section on page four of the G-639 instructions, available at
https://www.uscis.gov/system/files_force/files/ form/g-639instr.pdf.

Items 10.a. – 13: Information About Family Members That May Appear on Requested Records
This information is used to collect records related to the subject that might have been filed by or for family
members. Write in information about relatives who may appear in the subject’s records. For example, write in
the name of any family member who submitted a family-based petition for the subject. If there are multiple
relatives to include, complete the information for additional family members under Family Member 2 and by
using Additional Information.

PRACTICE TIP: If the subject is the beneficiary in a family-based immigration case and is looking for decisions and
documents related to a family-based petition, it can be helpful to have the beneficiary be either the subject or
the requester for the FOIA from USCIS, but to include an affidavit of consent from the petitioner. This will help ensure receipt of as many responsive records about the case as possible.


Items 14.a.– 14.c.: Parents’ Names for the Subject of Record
The form asks specifically for information about the subject’s parents. However, the G-639 does not ask about
the family members’ address or immigration status. Because of this, there is minimal risk in including the full
names of the subject’s parents.


Item 16: Description of Records Requested
If you are not requesting specific documentation, we recommend you complete the Description of Records
Sought section by writing, “Requesting copy of all files relating to [subject’s name] for personal review.”
Although it is likely that many records will be provided unless you specifically limit the request, it is best to
explicitly state that you seek all available documentation regarding the Subject.

 

Part 4: Verification of Identity and Subject of Record Consent

Every person submitting a FOIA request must complete the entire Verification of Identity and Subject of Record
Consent section for the agency to verify that the subject is who they say they are.


PRACTICE TIP: Form G-639 requires the subject to include their name twice—in Part Three, Description of
Records Requested and Part Four, Verification of Identity and Subject of Record Consent. When completing
this information, always confirm that the name listed is consistent in both sections. This will help avoid any
agency confusion. If you are using the fillable PDF form on the USCIS website, Part Four: Items 1.a.–1.c. will
automatically populate based on your answers in Part Three.


Items 1.a – 1.c.: Full Name of the Subject of Record
Fill in the full legal name of the person whose record is being sought here.

Items 2 – 3: Other Information for the Subject of Record
✓ Date of Birth: The date should be written as month/day/year. Ex.: 01/31/2015.
✓ Country of Birth: Write the name of the country in which the subject was born. If the name of the birth
country has changed since they were born, write the name of the country used at the time of birth.


PRACTICE TIP: For many immigrants, it may not be in their best interest to disclose in a FOIA request that
they were born outside of the United States. For example, anyone contesting alienage (e.g., holding the
government to its burden to show the person is not a U.S. citizen) will not want to list their country of
birth. To avoid this, the subject may simply decline to write their country of birth or write: “The
government alleges [insert country name],” or “The Notice to Appear alleges that client is from [insert
country name].” Although Form G-639 states that the information regarding country of birth is required,
it is not mandated by statute or regulations. 

Items 4.a. – 4.i.: Mailing Address for the Subject of Record

Items 5 – 7: Contact Information for the Subject of Record


Providing contact information for the subject is optional. If the subject is represented by the requester, we recommend not providing contact information for the Subject, and thereby forcing DHS to contact only the requester if there is any question. If you do provide contact information for the subject, include only telephone numbers and email addresses that are regularly checked and not likely to change in the foreseeable future to avoid delays.

Items 8.a. – 8.c.: Signature of the Subject of Record


Whether the FOIA request is made by a person seeking her own file or another person’s file, the subject must either: (1) provide their signature before a notary public in item 8.a., or (2) sign the declaration under penalty of perjury in item 8.b. The subject should choose one and not sign both.

Where to Make Your Request
To request You should
  • An A-File, whether your own or someone else’s with their permission; or
  • Agency policies, data, communications, and other records.

Request records online with USCIS, to instantly:

  • Place your request in line for processing;
  • Confirm we received it;
  • Be notified when we process it,
  • Track its status; and
  • Conveniently access your records online.

Online record responses are easy to:

  • Access from a phone, tablet, or computer;
  • Send to another person; and
  • Download and print.

You can receive online responses even if:

  • You did not file for immigration benefits online;
  • You have a representative, because they can request your records through their USCIS online account; or
  • You previously requested your records by mail, email, or fax.
Records that are more than 100 years old Request the records through the USCIS Genealogy Program
Accessible records under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

Email the USCIS FOIA Program with:

  • Subject line, “FOIA Disability Accommodations”;
  • Your name;
  • A phone number where we can reached you; and
  • Your FOIA control number.
  • Records of apprehension, detention, deportation, entry, exit, expedited removal, background investigations, or inspections by Customs and Border Protection;
  • Form I-94 records;
  • Travel industry reservation data such as a passenger name; or record (PNR)
  • Voluntary return records
Contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Information about Importer Trade Activity (ITRAC) Contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection, ITRAC
  • Applications from U.S. citizens for U.S. passports; or
  • Visa requests from noncitizens to enter the United States.
Contact the U.S. Department of State
  • Bond obligor requests
  • Medical records while someone was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Information affecting those previously or currently in F-1, F-3, J-1, M-1, and I-20 status
Contact U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Records by mail

Make Your Request Online

Our online FOIA request service is the fastest, most convenient way to request and receive records from USCIS. When you make a FOIA or PA request by mail, it delays responses to all requestors.

Attorneys and representatives can also make online FOIA requests on behalf of their clients.

Requests Using Form G-639

If you prefer to make your request by mail, download, complete, print, and sign Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request (PDF, 436.26 KB). Form G-639 ensures we receive the correct information to fulfill your request if you make it by mail.

Mail Requests Without Form G-639

You may draft and mail a request for records that meets statutory FOIA procedures without using Form G-639. If you do this, USCIS cannot process your request as efficiently as possible. If you mail your request, you may be more likely to omit some information we need to fulfill your request, which could delay you from receiving the records you requested.

If you choose this option, your request should include:

  • Your name;
  • Your address or email address;
  • A clear and specific description of the records you are requesting; and
  • If applicable, a justification for expedited treatment.

If you are requesting records about yourself, include a statement of your identity, notarized, or signed under penalty of perjury.

If you are requesting records about someone else, include:

  • The name of the person the records pertain to, also known as the subject of record;
  • A statement of identity by the subject of the record, consisting of their full name, current address, and date and place of birth, signed under penalty of perjury, or notarized; and
  • A third-party release statement by the subject of the record giving you permission to seek their personal records. This statement also must be notarized, or signed under penalty of perjury.

Be Specific

However you make your request, be as specific as possible about which documents you need. We can respond to requests for specific documents faster than for large set of records, such as entire A-Files.

Also explain if you are requesting:

  • Information from your own immigration record;
  • Information from another person’s immigration record;
  • USCIS business, operational, or policy records;
  • An amendment or correction of a record under the Privacy Act; or
  • Another kind of record in USCIS custody.

Where to Mail
National Records Center (NRC)
FOIA/PA Office
P.O. Box 648010
Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010

After we receive your request, we will send you a letter of acknowledgement, process the request and send our response. You will receive any records we release by mail as files on a compact disk (CD).
Records by email, or fax We will stop accepting FOIA or PA requests by fax or email on Dec. 16, 2022. For faster receipt of records, use our online FOIA request and response service.
 
If you request We will
Specific documents from an A-File

Be able to process your request faster.

When you make your request, be as specific as possible about which documents you need. We can respond to requests for specific documents faster than for large set of records, such as entire A-Files.

Also explain if you are requesting:

  • Information from your own immigration record;
  • Information from another person’s immigration record;
  • USCIS business, operational, or policy records;
  • An amendment or correction of a record under the Privacy Act; or

Another kind of record in USCIS custody.

Large portions of A-Files and non-A-File records Require more time compared to specific documents.
Records we do not have, or if you make the request incorrectly Notify you as quickly as possible.
An A-File, as soon as possible, because you have a scheduled hearing with an immigration judge

Prioritize your request to deliver it faster.

You must include with your request a copy of 1 of these documents, which was sent to you by the Department of Homeland Security or Department of Justice:

  • Form I-862, Notice to Appear, documenting the upcoming date of the subject’s hearing before the immigration judge;
  • Form I-122, Order to Show Cause, documenting the upcoming date of the subject’s hearing before the immigration judge;
  • Form I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge; or
  • A written notice of continuation of a future scheduled hearing before the immigration judge.
 
To You can
Appeal our determination of your request

Write a letter, known as an administrative appeal, and mail it to:

USCIS FOIA/PA Appeals Office
150 Space Center Loop, Suite 500
Lee’s Summit, MO
64064-2139

Clearly mark both your letter and its envelope “Freedom of Information Act Appeal”.

Address concerns with your request or appeal by consulting a neutral third-party Visit the website of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). OGIS offers mediation between FOIA requestors and federal agencies.
 
To You can
See the status of a pending FOIA or PA request Check the status of the request online, whether you made it online or another way. You will need the FOIA control number included in your receipt message.

Ask more detailed questions about our process or your pending FOIA or PA request

Email the USCIS FOIA Program. Please note that we can only answer questions about FOIA or PA requests. We cannot help with, or respond to, questions about pending applications, petitions, or any other immigration matter. For these inquiries, call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY: 800-767-1833).

EOIR FOIA REQUEST

WHERE MAY I SUBMIT MY REQUEST?

It is highly recommended that you submit your FOIA request through the Public Access Link (PAL) for the most efficient processing. If a computer is not readily available to you, you may alternatively submit your request to the following address:


Office of the General Counsel Attn: FOIA Service Center
Executive Office for Immigration Review
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2150
Falls Church, VA 22041

A FOIA request should reasonably describe the records sought and include identifying information. For example, if a FOIA request seeks a record of proceedings, your request, if possible, should include the alien’s full name, aliases, immigration hearing location, and alien registration (A) number (if known). If the A number is not known or the case occurred before 1988, please provide the date of the Order to Show Cause, the country of origin, and the location of the immigration hearing.

To ensure that privacy protected information is not improperly released, a request seeking records regarding yourself must verify your identity. The FOIA Service Center recommends submitting an originally signed and dated DOJ-361 Form Certification of Identity

Alternate Certification: when you are requesting your own records, you may verify your identity using your: (1) full name; (2) current address; (3) date and place of birth; and either:
  a. A notarized signature; or
  b. This statement immediately above your signature: “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [date].”

The period for determining whether to comply with a request is 20 working days and may be extended to 30 working days when there is a need to search and collect information from a field office; when there is a need to search and collect voluminous records; or when there is a need for consultation within the agency or among two or more agencies. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i).

To have a FOIA request expedited, your request must demonstrate a compelling need such as: (1) imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; (2) an urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity if the request is made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information; (3) loss of substantial due process rights; or (4) a matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government’s integrity which affect public confidence.

To follow up on the status of a FOIA request, log into your PAL account or email EOIR.FOIARequests.usdoj.gov. If a computer is not readily available to you, you may call 703-605-1297 and leave a detailed voice message. 

If you are not satisfied with EOIR’s response to your FOIA request, you may file an appeal with the Office of Information Policy (OIP), United States Department of Justice. OIP’s address is as follows:

Office of Information Policy (OIP)
United States Department of Justice
6th Floor, 441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Your appeal must be post marked or transmitted electronically within 90 days of the date of EOIR’s FOIA response. Appeals may be filed here.

See 28 C.F.R. § 16.8.


Additionally, mediation services are available through the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) to resolve disputes between requesters and agencies, as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation. Click here

CUSTOM & BORDER PROTECTION (CBP) FOIA

Online Form:
https://foiaonline.gov/foiaonline/action/public/request


(Select “CBP FOIA Division”
under “Agency”)

• Apprehensions and detentions at the border
• Interactions with CBP at the border or in the interior
• Form I-94 records
• Voluntary return records
• Records of entries and exits
• Expedited removal orders
• Advance parole records obtained through CBP

FOIA requests to CBP take a long time. Usually the information from CBP would be in the A-file if requested from USCIS. You can also do an FBI fingerprint check to see if there are any CBP encounters, and that would be much faster. Consider those two alternatives before waiting for CBP to send you documents. 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) holds invaluable immigration records, including border apprehensions and encounters; background investigations; detentions by border patrol or at a port of entry; expedited removals by CBP; records regarding the subject’s inspection or examination upon their arrival at a U.S. port of entry; voluntary returns; commercial documents; contracts; entries and exits; fines, penalties, forfeitures, and seizures; I-94 records; imports and exports; media; and travel (including advance parole documents obtained through CBP).


Note that it can take a very long time to receive a response from CBP because of persistent backlog issues. The monthly statistics that CBP is required to post show that the agency had more open FOIA requests in August 2019 (20,607) than in June 2017 (5,510).

CBP responses also may not be complete, or may come back saying that no responsive records have been found. In cases where you know that records exist, but CBP has not produced any, consider appealing.

If you would like to obtain records from CBP, submit an online request by going to https://www.cbp.gov/sitepolicy-notices/foia. CBP processes FOIA requests differently than the DHS components listed above. Form G639 is not required and in fact is not accepted except as a supporting document to the online submission.



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