Freedom of Information Act
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have not been to our main FOIA page go there now.
There is a great deal of information readily available to you without an official FOIA request. Check the links on the left side of this page.
How do I submit a FOIA request?
A FOIA request must be submitted in writing. It should clearly state and describe what you are looking for in enough detail so an employee can locate the records. Be as concise and specific as possible.
What should I include with my request?
- Fee category you are in (commercial-use, news media, educational institution, other). Indicate the costs (for search, document duplication, and postage) that you are willing to pay without prior notification by the Service.
- List of all bureau FOIA contacts to which you are sending your request
- When making a request for personal records about another individual, include a written authorization from the individual or proof that an individual is deceased
- Indicate whether or not the Service should consider your FOIA request to be an expedited request. Requests can be expedited due to an imminent threat to life, or physical safety of an individual, or to the public welfare, or if the matter pertains to due process rights.
- Indicate if you are willing to modify your request in order to get a quicker response
- Remember to include your name and other contact information such as mailing address, phone number, e-mail address, fax number.
- Put the words "FOIA REQUEST" on request letter and envelope.
How long will it take for a response?
You should expect a response 20-30 workdays from the day of when the request was received by the bureau to conclude whether or not your FOIA request has been granted. Response time will depend on the issues regarding your request.
Is there a way to speed up the processing of my FOIA request?
The request can be accelerated under the following circumstances:
- An imminent threat has been posed on the life or physical safety of an individual
- The requested information has a value that may be lost if not dispersed quickly
- The loss of substantial due process rights.
In order to speed up a request, submit a detailed statement of why the request needs prompt attention. You should be contacted within ten days of the receipt of your request.
How much does it cost to make a FOIA request?
Agencies are required to charge fees according to the direct costs of searching for, reviewing, and duplicating documents responding to a FOIA request. Depending on what type of category you requested will also be a determining factor in fee costs. A fee normally will not be charged if the fee would be $30 or less.
When and how are fees waived?
Requests for fee waivers are decided on a case-by-case basis. You are not entitled to a fee-waiver for every request you submit. A fee will be waived under these circumstances:
- The information will contribute to better understanding by the public
- It is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester
How will my request be responded to?
A reasonable effort will be made to search for all records responsive to your request. In responding to your request, you will receive a response letter or notification of how, when, and where the records will be made available, or it will be denied if one or more of the nine exemptions applies to the document you have requested.
When can I file an appeal?
You can file an appeal when:
- Records or parts of records have been withheld
- You have reason to believe the bureau did not adequately search for responsive records
- A decision was not made within time limits
- You believe fees have been improperly calculated
- A fee waiver has been denied
- A request for accelerated processing has been denied or not responded to in time
Where do I send my request?
Pacific Region Office
Budget and Administration
Eastside Federal Complex
911 NE 11th Ave.
Portland, OR 97232-4181
Contact: Patti Carroll
This office covers California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington. For other regions, see our national home page for the url of the regional office.