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Featured Issue: The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. §552 provides any individual a right of access to any non-exempt federal government record. The Privacy Act (PA), 5 U.S.C. §552a provides lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens a right of access to records filed in an agency system of records, which are retrieved by their name or personal identifier.

In FY2019, DHS released:

  • About 40 million pages of records;
  • About 210,000 pages through the appeal process; and
  • Almost 430,000 pages through litigation.

DHS FOIA Processing | Expedited Processing | Instructions for Filing FOIAs | AILA Practice Resources | Advocacy Resources | AILA FOIAs | Member FOIAs | Advocacy FOIAs | Government Resources | Litigation | Media Resources

DHS FOIA Processing

In general, the FOIA requires an agency to respond to FOIA requests within 20 business days after the office that maintains the responsive records receives the request. The business day response requirement is not necessarily the time frame for releasing responsive documents.

The Department processes its requests by date of receipt at the proper office maintaining the required records on a first-in, first-out basis, except for exceptions outlined in the FOIA and the Department of Homeland Security FOIA implementing regulations.

Expedited Processing

Under certain conditions, your request may receive expedited processing if you meet the criteria established in our regulations. However, an expedited request will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis with other expedited requests.

Requests and appeals will be taken out of order and given expedited treatment whenever it is determined that they involve:

  • Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;
  • An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged federal government activity, if made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information.

Instructions for Filing FOIAs

AILA Practice Resources

Advocacy Resources

AILA FOIAs

Member FOIAs

Advocacy FOIAs

Government Resources

Litigation

Media Resources

Information found on AILA.org is not legal advice. Materials found on AILA’s websites are not a substitute for independent legal advice based on a thorough review and analysis of the facts of each individual case, or for independent research based on statutory and regulatory authorities; case law; policy guidance; and, for procedural issues, federal government websites.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 20022703.