What You Need to Know
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal statute. FOIA generally provides that any person has a right to request access to federal agency records.
FOIA also establishes a presumption that records in the possession of agencies and departments of the Executive Branch of the U. S. government are accessible to the people, except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.
- Determine Record - Determine the exact record you seek. These could be documents, memoranda, emails, voice messages, or video.
- Check Public Domain - Check available resources such as the internet or libraries to determine whether the record already exists in the public domain.
- Determine Which Part of DHS has the Record - Narrow down as best as possible the location (office or component) in which you think the record might exist.
- Department Structure
- Top requests overall and by Component
- Top requests by topic
- Contact information for Components
- Complete Information - Draft a letter or email completing all required fields including:
- Address or email address
- Phone if you would like to receive calls regarding the processing of your request
- Brief description of records sought
- Fee category
- Expedited treatment
- Provide perjury statement and signature or notary if seeking records that contain personal information about yourself
- Provide a third party release statement if seeking personal records on another person
- Send the FOIA - You may mail, email, or fax your FOIA to the identified component Get component contact information.
Each federal agency only responds to requests for its own records. Please submit only requests for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records to us. Also, please note that the FOIA does not require the Department to answer questions, issue opinions, conduct legal research, create records or produce tangible objects in order to respond to a request.
- Additional requirements. If you are requesting records on yourself or another individual, see additional requirements under Requirements for Submitting a Privacy Act Request.
- Multiple requests. For faster handling, please note in your request whether you are submitting it to more than one Department component.