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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request - Frequently Asked Questions

7.

What happens after the Department of Homeland Security component receives my FOIA request?

When a Department of Homeland Security component receives your FOIA request, it ordinarily will send you a letter acknowledging the request and assigning it an initial request number. If you do not provide the necessary information, the component will advise you of what additional information is required before further processing your request.

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8.

What is the processing time for an FOIA request?

Under the statute, all federal agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. This time period does not begin until the request is actually received by the FOIA office of the Department of Homeland Security component that maintains the records sought. An agency is not required to send out the releasable documents by the last business day; it can send you a letter informing you of its decision and then send you the documents within a reasonable time afterward.

Under the FOIA, a component may extend the response time for an additional ten business days when:

  • The component needs to collect responsive records from field offices
  • The request involves a 'voluminous' amount of records that must be located, compiled, and reviewed; or
  • The component needs to consult with another agency or other components of the Department of Homeland Security that have a substantial interest in the responsive information

Note: When such a time extension is needed, the component may notify you of this in writing and offer you the opportunity to modify or limit your request. Alternatively, you may agree to a different timetable for the processing of your request.

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