Document Requests and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you can request that US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) provide you with a copy of your immigration file. This information can help you in preparing your immigration case. FOIA is a federal act that allows anyone to request records from federal agencies.

USCIS Records

As a federal agency, USCIS is subject to FOIA. Therefore, anyone may submit a request for USCIS to disclose documents related to their Alien-File (A-File).

You can request documents related to:

  • Your own A-File,
  • Another person’s A-File (with their permission), or
  • USCIS records such as data or communications.

However, the more specific a request is (i.e. a few documents rather than an entire A-File), the faster the USCIS will be able to process the information and send the documents. USCIS uses a platform called FOIA Information Records System (FIRST), which allows requests and documents to be transmitted digitally.

Start your FOIA request online with this link.

Important Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when you request documents from USCIS through FOIA. First, you must file a FOIA request with Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act form.

Again, requests will take the USCIS various amounts of time depending on their complexity. A request for just a few specific documents can take four to twelve weeks, while a more thorough or complicated request can take up to six months.

Finally, it is important to check that the document has not already been released on the USCIS Electronic Reading Room before filing a request.

Request Return of Original Documents

              Use Form G-884 (Request Return of Original Documents) to request information from the government. Specifically, the G-884 allows an individual to request the return of their original documents. When you file a petition or application, you can request return of your original documents from USCIS as part of the process. You may also file a request with Form G-884. For more information about requesting document return, see our blog post on the subject.


In short, FOIA mandates that unless it is prohibited by law or would violate privacy, all federal records must be released upon request. As a federal agency, the USCIS is bound to follow this law. Thus, by filing a G-639 form, an individual can request documents related to their file or general USCIS records.

If you have any questions on filing the Request Records through the Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act, please contact us for a free consultation.

By: Tom De Kesel, MRC Immigration Attorney & Ishika Bhasin – December 29, 2021

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