FOIA requests and how can they be helpful in an immigration case
In our practice it is generally important to review the past history of a case in order to establish the best strategy to move forward. Many times our clients do not have copies of past immigration applications they have filed or others have filed on their behalf. When having access to this information would have an impact on the strategy we would follow in their case, we generally recommend filing a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. A FOIA is a formal request for copies of government records from any federal agency. This was established as a right in 1967, for all persons in the U.S., citizens and non-citizens alike.
Having access to all the immigration records of a person, also allows us to verify the consistency of the information provided in past and current applications which is an important consideration when USCIS is reviewing a petition. In some instances, by reviewing old records we have been able to spot mistakes that were made in prior applications and correct them in the new applications to avoid potential problems. For example, we have had situations in which a person had been ordered deported many years ago but they did not have copies of those records. When we filed the FOIA request and received copies of the records, these revealed that the deportation process had been done improperly and we were able to get the deportation order vacated (withdrawn). Without a deportation order, this individual was then eligible to apply for permission to live and work in the U.S.
- How much does it cost to do a FOIA Request?
The government may charge a nominal processing fee to cover duplication of records. Our office charges a legal fee to prepare the FOIA request and to review and analyze the legal significance of the government response.
- How long does it take to receive a response back on a FOIA request?
Agencies typically process requests in the order of receipt. Therefore, the response time of a request will vary depending on its complexity and any backlog of requests pending at the agency. In our experience immigration related FOIA’s will generally be processed in 3 to 14 months.
If you or a family member would like assistance to obtain and evaluate your immigration records to see if you qualify for an immigration benefit, please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced immigration lawyers in Boston, at 617-303-2600.
The FitzGerald Law Company Team