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USCIS to Start Online Processing of FOIA Requests

USCIS is implementing a new system permitting electronic submission of Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests. The new system, being called the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Immigration Records SysTem (“FIRST”), will ultimately allow users to submit, manage, and receive FOIA requests entirely online.

Previously, USCIS has only accepted FOIA requests by mail, fax, and email, with responses by mail (contained in large scanned Acrobat Reader files sent on a compact disc). The process can take upwards of six months, and given current technology isn’t the most efficient way to convey the information.

FOIA laws give anyone a way to request access to a variety of information from federal agencies, though there are significant exceptions allowing agencies to refuse to disclose certain information. USCIS, subject to these exceptions, is required to disclose records and information upon receiving a request.

The FIRST system will initially be implemented for those with pending immigration court cases before being made available to others. The trimline for initial rollout and eventual expansion isn’t yet clear.