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U.S. Freedom of Information Act Requests

 

Instructions on how to file a Freedom of Information Act request to uncover border crossing problems.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 CBP description of how to approach a request to that department.

Filing a FOIA with CBP

The most expeditious way to submit a FOIA request to CBP is electronically, via FOIAonline – CBP’s official system for tracking all FOIA requests.  To submit a FOIA electronically, click on the following link https://foiaonline.regulations.gov/foia/action/public/request/publicPreCreate then click on “Create an Account”. 

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.

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.

Record/Request Type Where to Submit FOIA Request

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler Programs:

  • Note: If you are seeking information on a trusted traveler application denial, contact the relevant enrollment center.
Enrollment Centers:
FAST
Global Entry
NEXUS
SENTRI

Apprehension by Border Patrol between Official Ports of Entry

  • Note: CBP does not have complete records of apprehensions by Border Patrol made before 2000. Records of apprehensions by Border Patrol made before 2000 may be available in the A-File maintained by USCIS.

CBP

CBP Background Investigation CBP
CBP Contracts CBP
Detention by Border Patrol or at Port of Entry CBP
Expedited Removal by Border Patrol or at Port of Entry CBP
CBP Human Resources CBP
Import Trade Activity (ITRAC) Requests CBP ITRAC Requests
I-94 Records

CBP I-94 website

Passenger Name Record (PNR) (Travel Industry Reservation Data) CBP
Records Regarding My Inspection or Examination upon My Arrival at a U.S. Port of Entry CBP

Information Regarding Entry and Exit

  • Note: CBP does not have records on the entry and exit of persons arriving or departing the U.S. before 1982.
CBP
Voluntary Return CBP
A-File U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
I-130 Records USCIS
N-400 USCIS
Petition Status USCIS
Deportation Records; Detention and Removal Records USCIS
Medical Records (While in Detention) Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Inquiries or Resolution Regarding Difficulties Experienced During Travel

(If you experience repeated referrals for security screenings or you believe that you have been denied boarding or entry into the U.S. because of inaccurate information in law enforcement databases)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS TRIP)
Visa/Passport Department of State

Concerns about how you were treated by CBP officers, or if you have a general or specific question(s) about CBP or your CBP inspection

CBP Info Center or call

(877) CBP-5511 (227-5511) for U.S. Callers or (202) 325-8000 for International callers

Last published: 
June 20, 2017
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