JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen FOIA/Privacy Act Records #general

Charles F. Printz <cfphrai@...>

Dear Colleagues -

Fran of Manassas, VA in the below cited message attempted to provide
information on the filing of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C.
552) requests, but there is a "small" misstatement in her remarks. As
possibly the only immigration attorney in the group, let me try to give
some information on using FOIA to access immigration records >from the
immigration service that are usually not more than 75 years old. The
below information is very valuable in situations where a living child,
for example, is seeking information on a parent or grandparent -
especially where that child or grandchild might have logically been
cited in the applicant's initial application information. An example of
this could be where the USC requester might have been a young child who
initially immigrated with the applicant or applicant family. This will
give the requester "standing" to examine the copies of records without
much challenge by the government. If the requester was part of the
application, that requester should use first use a FOIA/Privacy Act
request for his/her own records, as they will track to the principal

First, please recall that INS (now Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS or BCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security)
was dismantled in March 2003 and all enforcement and benefits and record
keeping became part of Homeland Security. This is a nightmare, but a
discussion for another time. FOIAs are made on form G-639, available at

They are filed in the first instance with the local office having
jurisdiction over the last place of residence of the person who is the
focus of your inquiry. Records of naturalization before 1906 are still
filed with the clerk of the relevant court. Requests for manifest
arrival records prior to 1982 are filed with the National Archives.Your
envelopes should be clearly marked "Freedom of Information Act/Privacy
Act". You will need very specific information, including death certs if
the inquiry is on a deceased relative. An Alien # or A# as it is
commonly called is a direct link to the holdings in 90% of the cases. If
you have an A# reference for the person use it, please. The A# can
commonly be found on immigration receipts of action or approval, I-94
Arrival-Departure cards, and most other immigration records that you
might already have on the person you are searching. The A# will be eight
(8) or nine (9) numbers. Please know that even attorney filings on
"active" files can take upwards of 1 year to fill. If you are seeking
information on a deceased relative who might have filed for political
asylum to remain in the U.S. after arrival, he/she would have filed on
form I-589, but this information will remain confidential and is exempt
from disclosure, except to the applicant or his/her attorney.
When requesting records on a person who you know became a US citizen,
the set of records that would have been filed preliminary to citizenship
status are the following: the N-400 record (Application for
Naturalization) and the I-485 record w/ biographic information
(Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident), and the I-130
(Petition for Alien Relative). Some individuals also filed the N-300
(Notice of Intent to File for Citizenship), but this became less likely
with the passage of time. We very rarely see these records in files.

I hope some of the above information is of help.....

Chuck Printz,
Elizabeth, NJ & New York, NY/USA
cfphrai@... - Home

Just to help clarify...there seems to be some confusion in referring to
FOIA requests. FOIA means "Freedom Of Information Act" which is the law
that allows us to get records >from various agencies. These requests go
to different offices depending on the agency involved. Perhaps all INS
requests made under FOIA go to Missouri (I don't know if this is true or
not), but all FOIA requests do not! Referring to a FOIA request is
meaningless. Requests made under FOIA could be to SSA, INS, FBI or any
other government agency required under FOIA to release information.

Hope I didn't confuse things further....

Manassas, VA

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