Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

United States: Requirements and procedures to obtain a copy of an asylum claim, including information on the forms, identity information needed, and how long requests take to process; circumstances under which an individual would not be able to obtain their asylum record

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 20 January 2012
Citation / Document Symbol USA103925.E
Related Document États-Unis : information sur les exigences et la marche à suivre pour obtenir une copie d'une demande d'asile, y compris sur les formulaires, les renseignements personnels devant être fournis pour établir son identité et le délai de traitement; les circonstances dans lesquelles une personne ne pourrait pas obtenir son dossier
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, United States: Requirements and procedures to obtain a copy of an asylum claim, including information on the forms, identity information needed, and how long requests take to process; circumstances under which an individual would not be able to obtain their asylum record, 20 January 2012, USA103925.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f97dea22.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Under the United States (US) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), any person, both citizen and non-citizen, can make a request for documents from US federal agencies (US n.d.a). According to the US government website about the FOIA, FOIA requests must be made in writing and will receive the fastest response if sent directly to the individual federal agency that keeps the records being sought (ibid.).

The US Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Immigration Statistics explains that asylum claims in the US can be made in one of two ways: "affirmatively" through an officer at the DHS's US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or "defensively," during the removal process, through an immigration judge of the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) (ibid. May 2011, 4). USCIS has a FOIA department that processes requests for records (ibid. 7 Dec. 2011), as does the EOIR (ibid. Dec. 2011).

Procedures to obtain records from USCIS

According to the USCIS website, all FOIA requests for records must be made in writing and can be mailed, faxed, or sent as an e-mail attachment (US 7 Dec. 2011).

Individuals wishing to obtain copies of their records should provide their alien registration number (if known), as well as the following required information:

  • full name
  • current address
  • date of birth
  • place of birth (ibid. n.d.b, 7)

The requester must sign the request and either have the signature notarized or submit it "under 28 U.S.C. 1746 (penalty of perjury in lieu of notarized signature)" (ibid.). The penalty of perjury statement, if executed outside the United States, should read,

"I declare (or certify, verify or state) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct.

Executed on (date).
(Signature)." (ibid., 8)

If executed within the United States, it should read:

"I declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

Executed on (date).
(Signature)." (ibid.)

USCIS has an optional form (Form G-639) that can be used to make a FOIA request (US n.d.c). Information sought on the form includes: Name of Requester; Date; Daytime Telephone Number; Address; Signature of Requester; Consent to Release Information (for persons other than the requester); Information Needed to Search for Records; Purpose (optional); Family Name; Given Name; Middle Name; Other Names Used; Name at time of entry to the US; I-94 Admission no.; Alien Registration Number (A#); Petition or Claim Receipt #; Country of Birth; Date of Birth; Names of Family Members that may appear on requested record(s); Country of Origin; Port of Entry into the US; Date of Entry; Manner of Entry; Mode of Travel; Verification of Subject of Record's identity; Signature of Subject of Record; Notary; Signature (ibid.). A copy of the form is attached to this Response.

The address to mail FOIA requests for USCIS records is:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
National Records Center, FOIA/PA Office
P.O. Box 648010
Lee's Summit, MO 64064-8010
USA (ibid. 7 Dec. 2011)

USCIS FOIA records can also be faxed to (816) 350-5785 (ibid.). In addition, the FOIA request can be sent as an e-mail attachment if the subject of the record's notarized signature or signature made under penalty of perjury is scanned (ibid.). The e-mail address is uscis.foia@dhs.gov (ibid.).

Procedures to obtain records from the Department of Justice

According to the website of the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the FOIA Service Center of the EOIR is centralized and processes requests from individuals to obtain records from immigration courts (US Dec. 2011).

Information on DOJ's website indicates that individuals seeking their own records must confirm their identity by doing one of the following:

  • completing and signing Form DOJ-361 (ibid. n.d.f);
  • having their signature witnessed by a notary; or
  • including the following statement immediately above their signature on their request letter: "I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on (date)." (ibid. n.d.d)

Form DOJ-361, the Certificate of Identity form, is attached to this Response.

In addition, the EOIR instructs requestors to "thoroughly describe the records sought and include identifying information such as full name, aliases, immigration hearing location and alien registration number (if known)" (ibid. Dec. 2011). In a case in which the alien registration number is unknown, or if the case was prior to 1988, the requestor should provide the date of the Order to Show Cause, country of origin and the location of the immigration hearing (ibid.).

The address for mailing requests for EOIR records is:

Office of the General Counsel
Attn: FOIA Service Center
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Department of Justice
Suite 2600, 5107 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041 (ibid. n.d.e)

Processing FOIA requests

Sources report that, by law, requests for asylum records should be processed within 20 working days (US n.d.d; The Recorder 24 Oct. 2011; San Francisco Chronicle 19 Oct. 2011). However, US government websites explain that the time it takes to respond to requests depends on the complexity of the request and the backlog of requests at the agency; some requests require more time than the standard one-month time limit (US n.d.a; ibid. n.d.d).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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