Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of FOIA?

Who can file a FOIA request?

How do I make a FOIA request?

How long do you have to respond to my request?

Can I ask questions under the FOIA?

Will I be charged for making a FOIA request?

Can I appeal a decision of denial of access?

Whom do I contact to find out the status of my FOIA request or appeal?

What is the purpose of FOIA?

The FOIA gives a person the right to request access to Federal records. However, some records may be protected from release pursuant to one of the nine FOIA exemptions. For the complete list of FOIA exemptions, visit this page.

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Who can file a FOIA request?

Any person can file a FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, universities, businesses, and state and local governments. Federal employees may not use government time or equipment when requesting information under the FOIA.

How do I make a FOIA request?

For assistance in requesting records from the Center for Civil Rights Enforcement, please refer to "Where and How To Make a FOIA Request." For help with your request letter, view a sample FOIA letter.

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How long do you have to respond to my request?

The FOIA allows agencies 20 working days to provide a determination on a request for records.

Can I ask questions under the FOIA?

The FOIA does not require Federal Agencies to answer questions, render opinions, or provide subjective evaluations. Requesters must ask for existing records.

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Will I be charged for making a FOIA request?

There is no initial fee to file a FOIA request, however, an agency is entitled to charge certain fees, which depend on the category of requester you fall into. For more information regarding the charging of fees, view our fee schedule located on this web site.

Can I appeal a decision of denial of access?

Yes. If the Center for Civil Rights Enforcement denies your request in whole or in part under one or more FOIA exemptions or for some other reason, you will be advised of your appeal rights and the proper procedures for submitting the appeal. For assistance in filing an appeal see "Where and How To Make a FOIA Appeal".

Whom do I contact to find out the status of my FOIA request or appeal?

You may contact the Center for Civil Rights Enforcement. FOIA Specialist, at 202-720-5212, or via email to ascrfoia@ascr.usda.gov.

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