USCIS to Begin Accepting Freedom of Information Act Requests Online

If you are looking for copies of immigratiom documents or other information that’s in your immigration file, an online FOIA request might deliver the results you need.

By , J.D.


A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request can be crucial for applicants seeking either to find out what U.S. immigration authorities did with their past applications and paperwork, or to retrieve some information that they had lost, such as a priority date marking their place within the visa preference system. By making a FOIA request, you can retrieve what's known as your "A file."

FOIA requests can be especially important in cases where an applicant's extended history matters to the success of a current application, such as in seeking naturalized U.S. citizenship, or where a foreign national is in deportation proceedings and needs to see what evidence the government holds.

A FOIA request was possible in the past by submitting a paper application, and waiting for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to prepare and return photocopies. This tended to take weeks or months.

That's why it's good news that USCIS has launched what it calls a FOIA Immigration Records SysTem (FIRST), which is intended (when fully rolled out) to let users submit, manage, and receive responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests entirely online.

USCIS will start by prioritizing requesters who have an immigration court date scheduled. Other types of requesters will be added to the system in the months ahead.

To use this new system, you will need to create an online account within myUSCIS. Here, you'll be able to track the status of your FOIA request and will receive an email when USCIS has uploaded your file.

Effective Date: May 30, 2018