USCIS Implements Online Filing for FOIA Requests

Eliza Grinberg's picture

On May 30, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services published an important news alert titled “USCIS to Implement Online Processing of FOIA Requests” [PDF version].

The USCIS announced the launch of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Immigration Records SysTem (FIRST). FIRST “will eventually allow users to manage, and receive FOIA requests entirely online.” Prior to the launch of FIRST, the USCIS only accepted FOIA requests that were sent by mail, fax, and email. Furthermore, the USCIS sent documents on a compact disc by mail.

However, FIRST will launch in stages. At launch, “requestors who have an immigration court date pending and a file request for documents can create an account within myUSCIS to receive documents digitally…” Requestors will be able to track the status of their FOIA cases through their accounts. The USCIS will provide notification to users online when it updates their records.

Over the coming months, USCIS will add functions to FIRST. Notably, it will expand the digital delivery option “to all FOIA and Privacy Act (PA) requestors.” When FIRST is fully implemented, “requesters will be able to use a completely digital FOIA/PA system, from online submission to retrieving and downloading responsive documents.” The USCIS will post news alerts as it implements new features for the FIRST system.

The implementation of the FIRST system comes on the heels of the USCIS's December 2017 expansion of documents viewable in its Electronic Reading Room, accessible from the USCIS website. The Electronic Reading Room now includes cleared policy documents and external correspondence addressed to USCIS leadership, along with replies. Furthermore, it includes “information that has been requested at least three times and had been provided under FOIA.”

The USCIS's move to make filing and tracking FOIA requests easier is welcome news for stakeholders. In dealing with complex immigration matters, an individual should work closely with an experienced immigration attorney, who will be able to assess his or her case and move to procure the information necessary to vigorously represent the client.

We will update the site with more information on the implementation of the FIRST system as it becomes available.

USCIS Implements Online Filing for FOIA Requests