Making a Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Request

Records from the Federal Bureau of Investigation can be requested through both the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts (FOI/PA).

Freedom of Information Act Request:

The Freedom of Information Act, enacted in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson, allows anyone except for federal agencies, foreign intelligence agencies, and fugitives to request information about deceased persons, organizations, groups, businesses, investigations, historical events, or incidents. Request concerning a living person is generally not disclosed without written consent from that person or public disclosure authorized by law. The FBI recommends narrowing down a topic to decrease processing times. It is also helpful to provide identifying information that will help the FBI locate the desire documents. Requests for deceased persons require proof of death, such as a death certificate, or a recognized source.

Privacy Act Request:

Unlike the FOIA, the Privacy Act (PA) allows individuals to request information about themselves or another living person. Requesting information about yourself requires you to identify yourself through the Department of Justice’s Certification of Identity Form DOJ-361. Another option can be to have your request notarized or by including the following statement in your request:

“Under penalty of perjury, I hereby declare that I am the person named above and I understand that any falsification of this statement is punishable under the provisions of Title 18, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 1001 by a fine of not more than $10,000 or by imprisonment of not more than five years, or both; and that requesting or obtaining any record(s) under false pretenses is punishable under the provisions of Title 5, U. S. C., Section 552a(i)(3) as a misdemeanor and by a fine of not more than $5,000.”

FOI and PA requests can be mailed, faxed or emailed to:

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Attn: FOI/PA Request
Record/Information Dissemination Section
170 Marcel Drive
Winchester, VA 22602-4843
Fax: (540) 868-4391/4997

FOI and PA requests are free, though the FBI may charge you a fee for copies of larger file requests. Filing times vary but generally take about 4 months to process.

Uses in Immigration Law

Anyone applying for immigration benefits can use the FOIA to see what information the USCIS has on your file. This information can be used to strategize applications and petitions. Perhaps you were unaware of a missed deportation hearing on your record. Knowing this information can be invaluable to prevent arrest or apply for the correct waivers or make the right appeals. The FOIA can also help you access your filing information if your sponsoring petitioner passes away while your case is still pending. Ultimately, access to these files verifies your eligibility for certain immigration benefits and can prevent unwanted surprises.


FBI Documents: Requesting FBI Records; Sample FOIA Request Letter

 (Updated 10/10/2012 by AD)

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