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


Is there a filing fee for an FOIA request?

There is no initial fee to file a FOIA request and, in the majority of requests made to the Department of Homeland Security, no fee is ever charged. By law, however, an agency is entitled to charge certain fees, which depend on the category of requester you fall into. For the purposes of fees only, the FOIA divides requesters into three categories.

  • Commercial requesters may be charged fees for searching for records, ‘processing’ the records (i.e., reviewing them to determine the possible applicability of FOIA exemptions), and photocopying them
  • Educational or noncommercial scientific institutions and representatives of the news media are charged only for photocopying expenses, after the first one hundred pages of copies
  • Requesters who do not fall into either of the above two categories are not charged for processing; they are charged only for record searches and photocopying – and there is no charge for the first two hours of search time or for the first one hundred pages of photocopies. The Justice Department charges ten cents per page for photocopying. In all cases, if the total fee does not exceed a minimum amount, currently $14, the Justice Department will not charge any fee at all

Note: You may include in your request letter a specific statement limiting the amount that you are willing to pay in fees. If you do not do so, the Department of Homeland Security will assume that you are willing to pay fees of up to $25. If a component estimates that the total fees for processing your request will exceed $25, it will notify you in writing of the estimate and offer you an opportunity to narrow your request in order to reduce the fees. If you continue to want all of the records involved, you will be asked to express your commitment to pay the estimated fees and the processing of your request will be suspended until you agree to do so.

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