If you are having problems crossing the border into the United States, you may want to request a copy of your records from an agency such as the U.S Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Agency, or the Department of Homeland Security.
The table below lists the agencies that are most involved with crossing the U.S. border. To get your personal information from one of these agencies, you will need to submit a “Freedom of Information Act” (FOIA) request. Anybody, including Canadian citizens, can file to obtain their own records. Charges for this service vary for different types of information. The links in the table below will take you to the website for each agency and provide a detailed description of what you must do.
The trick is that you must be very detailed in your description of the information you are seeking. You can request “all available records,” but we have seen recommendations that you should then follow that up with a list of the specific items you are looking for. We have heard stories about how difficult it was to get the desired information and that repeated submittals were required. If this process is too complicated (or too frustrating) for you, there are attorneys that specialize in immigration law that can file FOIA requests on your behalf.
In theory, the agencies are required to reply within 20 business days, but we have seen stories of it taking up to a year to get a full response.
Below is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection instructions on how to make a FOIA request. You can also view this information directly on the U.S. FOIA website.
DHS FOIA is moving to a NEW system which will allow us to process records faster. There may be a temporary delay in response to your request while launching the new system. Requesters can use the FOIA SecureRelease portal to submit requests. Requests can also be sent in the physical mail to: 90 K ST NE MS 1181, Washington DC 20229. We encourage you to submit your request through the DHS Portal. Any requests sent to CBP in the physical mail will need to be manually entered by staff and will divert resources away from processing records.
Use Our Online FOIA System to Request
After you create a FOIAonline account you can submit a FOIA request directly to CBP. When submitting a FOIA request on records that pertain to you, please provide your full name, address, and date of birth. If you are requesting records on behalf of someone else, you need a signed G-28 form (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative), or some other form of signed consent that will allow CBP to release the records to a 3rd party. Once your request is submitted you will receive an acknowledgment and a FOIA tracking number. After your FOIA request is acknowledged you can track the status of your request at any time. Please note that the FOIA process is not intended to be a mechanism for asking questions of CBP. FOIA requests are intended to provide access to CBP records.
To Receive Your Records as Efficiently As Possible
Common FOIA Requests
Some records may not be available through the CBP FOIA Office. The table below lists common FOIA requests and the agency/program office that can respond to these requests.
The records received from your FOIA request may not conform to applicable standards for use by persons with disabilities per Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You may request a reasonable modification for an accessible copy of your requested documents, if needed. If you choose to make a request for an accessible copy of a released document, then you will be contacted by a representative from our office to address your request. Please Note: A Section 508 compliant accessible copy of a document may be altered to meet disclosure requirements but will contain the same information.
When requesting accessibility assistance, please indicate your name, a phone number where you can be reached, and the FOIA Case Number in question. Please send your reasonable modification request to the FOIA mailbox at [email protected] with the subject line "FOIA Disability Modification" or call (202) 325-0150. (If you need telecommunication relay service (TRS) assistance to communicate with the CBP FOIA Office and you are in the United States, please dial 711 to obtain TRS assistance and notify the Communications Assistant that you want to contact the CBP FOIA Office at the telephone number (202) 325-0150.)
CBP Information Center
Visit the CBP Help Information Center for additional assistance.