Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request

Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request (FOIA), is used to request USCIS immigration records (for yourself or someone else with their permission) as well as agency policies, data, and other types of records. Before using USCIS FOIA Form G-639 to request documents, you should check to ensure that USCIS has not already added them to your USCIS account or that they are not already available in the Electronic Reading Room. If you want to avoid mail processing, you can make your FOIA request online, otherwise use the instructions laid out in this post.

What is the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act, also known as FOIA, is a law that requires documents, data, and information that is controlled by the government to be disclosed fully or partially by request. That includes files and immigration records that USCIS has in its possession. Submitting Form G-639 is how you can request and gain access to your own or someone else’s immigration records (with their permission). Form G-639 should not be used to inquire about the status of a pending application, notify the consular of petition approval, or request the return of original documents. It should also not be used to ask for proof of status or request naturalization records before Sept. 27, 1906. Note that immigration officials have the authority to block out information on the documents you request including names of government officers or officials other than the subject of record.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Freedom of Information Act Office (FOIA) will have limited access for processing incoming physical mail due to the national response to COVID-19. It is highly recommended that all correspondence regarding FOIA requests be sent electronically to [email protected] to avoid delay in processing.

USCIS uses what is known as a three-track processing system for efficiency. The first track is for simple cases where the requestor only asks for one or a couple of documents. The second track is for more complex requests like a complete file copy or documents from special interest groups. Finally, the third track is assigned to requests from people who need to appear before an immigration judge, and these cases are processed with priority. To be assigned to track three, the FOIA request must include either:

  • I-862, Notice to Appear
  • I-122, Order to Show Cause
  • I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge
  • Written notice of continuation of a future hearing with an immigration judge

How to Request Information using Form G-639

The forms required depend on who is requesting the information. For example, if you are requesting information with Form G-639 for a minor, you will need to provide proof of being their parent or legal guardian. Evidence of parentage includes a birth certificate, adoption documents, or other official documents listing you as a parent. Another example is if you are requesting information for someone deceased, you need to provide a death certificate, obituary report, photo of the headstone, or funeral information.

Part 1. Type of Request

The first part of the form has you indicate the type of request you are seeking. For example, if your request is for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Privacy Act, check box 1.a. If your request is an Amendment of Record, check box 1.b.

Part 2: Requestor Information

The second part has you indicate if the record is for yourself. Check yes if it is for yourself. Check no If you are seeking a record for someone else. If you are not the subject of the record, select your role in boxes 2.a.-2.c. An attorney, accredited representative, or family member may request information using this form. In 4.a.-4.c. fill in the requestor’s full name, then their mailing address and contact information. At the end of part two, the requestor will need to certify the form and consent to any costs incurred for the search, duplication, or review of documents up to $25. Sign and date in 9.a. and 9.b.

Part 3: Description of Records Requested

Part three is designed to have you describe the type of record you are requesting.

First, fill in the purpose of your request in line 1.

Following that, complete the full name of the subject of record. If their name was different at the time of entry into the United States, indicate that name as well in lines 5.

Then, in lines 6.a.-9, fill in the subject of record’s Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record number, passport or travel document number, Alien Registration number (if any), USCIS online account number (if any), and application or petition receipt number.

Finally, lines 10-16 are for the names of any family members that may be included in the requested records—for example, a parent’s name, spouse, child, etc. Be as thorough as possible when describing what records you are requesting. If you do not provide enough information or it is unclear what you want, USCIS will have to request more information from you, which will delay the process.

Part 4: Verification of Identity and Subject of Record Consent

Part four is to verify the identity of the subject of record. Fill in their full name, date of birth, country of birth, mailing address, and contact information. The subject of record (if different from the person filing Form G-639) must sign line 8.a. unless they are deceased, in which case you would need to attach the obituary or other proof of death.

Part 5: Processing Information

This section is dedicated to processing concerns. If the rate of processing your request could pose a threat to your life or safety, check the first box in line 1. Other urgency-related situations may apply, in which case check the appropriate box. In addition, submit a certified, detailed statement regarding the basis for your request with your Form G-639. Finally, if you have a pending Immigration Court hearing date, submit a copy of the following documents along with your Form G-639:

  • I-862, Notice to Appear
  • I-122, Order to Show Cause
  • I-863, Note of Referral to Immigration Judge, or submit a written notice of continuation of a future scheduled hearing before the immigration judge

Part 6: Additional Information

This section is provided if you need additional space to answer any of the previous questions. Overall this form is not overly complex and can easily be filed by the subject of record or a representative.

Mailing Address

You can mail requests to the following address:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services National Records Center,
FOIA/PA Office P. O. Box 648010 Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010

For Overnight or Certified Mail:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services National Records Center,
FOIA/PA Office 150 Space Center Loop, Suite 300 Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-2139.

If you need to submit a Privacy Act amendment request (to request that ICE records about you be corrected), send your detailed request to the ICE Privacy Office email address, [email protected], or the following address:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
CE Privacy and Records
ATTN:  Privacy Branch
500 12th Street SW, Stop 5004
Washington, D.C. 20536-5004

Check Status of FOIA Request

After submitting your USCIS FOIA request with Form G-639, USCIS will mail you an Acknowledgment Letter that has your Control number on it. (This number begins with NRC, COW, APP, etc.) You can use this number to check the status of your request using the FOIA Request Status Check.

The status check tool will indicate if the current request has been processed or is still pending. If USCIS processed the request within the past six months, then the date will appear. However, if it is still pending, the status will show what position it is related to other requests in that designated track. Track 3 cases are given the fastest priority processing because they typically have to do with removal proceedings. Have questions regarding the pending request? You can call the National Customer Service Unit at 1-800-375-5283. You can also fax questions to the National Records Center at 816-350-5785.

G-639 Frequently Asked Questions

What is Form G-639 used for?

The USCIS FOIA form is used to request USCIS immigration records (for yourself or someone else with their permission) as well as agency policies, data, and other types of records.

How much is a USCIS FOIA request?

Typically, there is no initial cost for a USCIS FOIA request. However, you agree to pay a maximum of $25 for any costs (photocopies, searches, etc.) incurred when filing Form G-639. The simpler the request, the smaller the likelihood you will need to pay a fee. No fees are due when you are submitting the form. If the fees associated with your request exceed $25, then USCIS will notify you. If you have not been notified or indicated that you are willing to pay the fee, then USCIS will send a notice of the fee to you, and you will need to remit the funds before the information requested will be released.

How long does a USCIS FOIA request take?

While you can expect to receive an acknowledgment letter within 20 days of your request (for simple cases), fulfilling the USCIS FOIA request can take anywhere from weeks to months depending on their caseload at the time and other related delays. For complicated requests, it can take upwards of six months to receive them. By law, USCIS can extend their response time an additional 10 days to collect records from field offices if the request asks for a large volume of records or other agencies need to be contacted to fulfill the request. USCIS will notify you of the delay. In addition, certain cases are prioritized if the requestor has removal proceedings in place and has been given a Notice to Appear in front of an immigration judge.

What is the subject of record?

The subject of record is the individual you are requesting the immigration documents about.

How many years does USCIS keep records?

For information located in an Alien Files (lawful permanent residents, aliens who entered the U.S. illegally or legally, etc.) USCIS keeps those records for 100 years.

Why are parts of my record blacked out?

Be aware that immigration officials have the authority to block out information on the documents you request including names of government officers or officials other than the subject of record.

What can I do if I want the status of a pending application?

If you are interested in the status of a pending petition or application, you should visit the USCIS case status website or call USCIS directly at 1-800-375-5283. For status updates of visa applications made at an embassy or consulate, you should contact them.

What records will not be available with a FOIA request?

Immigration records before 1982 may not be available with a FOIA immigration request. Also, do not use Form G-639 to ask for proof of status or request naturalization records before Sept. 27, 1906.

How long does it take to get a FOIA back from immigration?

It can take weeks to months, depending on the request type and its complexity, but they must notify you of receiving the request within 20 days (excluding weekends and holidays).

Who should I contact if I need a record of my criminal convictions in the U.S.?

The nature of the request will affect which branch you reach out to for the record. For example, if you need information related to your criminal history in the U.S., you should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Whereas if you need information related to your U.S. entries or departures, you can find that information in your Alien file. Other information located there includes photographs, affidavits, visas, etc.

How VisaNation Law Group Can Help 

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It is always a wise decision to handle your immigration case with the expertise of a qualified professional. Filing out Form G-639 alone could have immediate repercussions for your immigration status or benefits in the United States. So schedule a consultation today.