Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

FOIA Use the FOIA to get a copy of your immigration file from the USCIS, ICE, CBP or the Immigration Court (EOIR). This can be very important when you want to apply for an immigration benefit, and have had some dealings with the agency in the past.  Even more important if you are in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge.

Imagine that you once applied for asylum, but you stopped renewing your employment card years ago. Now you are married to a citizen of the U.S. and have a citizen child, and you want to apply for permanent residence. Your file might reveal that you are under a final order of deportation, that the Judge “administratively closed” your case, or that your case never went to court at all. You definitely want to know what happened to your application BEFORE you apply for a green card.

Reviewing your government file is like taking a peek at your opponent’s cards before you place your bet in a poker game.


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“Don’t do the mistake we did and try to save few bucks going with nonprofessionals and sole practitioners! It will end up not only costing you much more in the long run, but also putting your status in jeopardy which can have a priceless impact. It is one of the most important steps in your life.”

- Sgt. Danny Lightfoot, Los Angeles, California
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The USCIS website provides the following advice about FOIA:

To respond to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or Privacy Act (PA) request as quickly as possible, we will soon stop accepting requests by fax or email. We strongly encourage you to begin using our online FOIA request and response service.

This service has several advantages for anyone making a FOIA request to USCIS:

  • Get your request to us instantly;
  • Track its progress as we review;
  • Receive our response as soon as its ready; and
  • Download records whenever you need them.

You can submit a FOIA request online using the Freedom of Information Act Records SysTem (FIRST) to request:

  • Your own immigration record,
  • Another person’s immigration record, or;
  • Non-A-file information such as policies, data, or communications

Using FIRST eliminates the time and expense associated with mail-in requests.

Our FOIA Page is divided into the following subtopics:

FOIA Laws and Litigation

Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Department of State (DOS)

Department of Labor (DOL)

Social Security Administration (SSA)

Practice Advisories from the American Immigration Council (AIC)


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