Before submitting a FOIA request, we suggest the following tips to expedite the information return: (We are citing US DOJ regulations.)
1. Research the agency’s website for the information you are seeking. (FOIA requires that federal agencies release certain information automatically, without the need for you to make a request so before you put in the effort to obtain that which is readily and immediately available. check the agency’s site.)
2. Create and submit a pre-printed FOIA request form on your firm’s letterhead. (There is no specific form that must be used to make a request. The request simply must be in writing, reasonably describe the information you seek, and comply with specific agency requirements. Most federal agencies now accept FOIA requests electronically, including by web form, e-mail or fax.)
3. Follow up in five to six weeks post request submission if you have not received the information sought. (The time it takes to respond to each request varies depending on the complexity of the request itself and the backlog of requests already pending at the agency. In some circumstances, the agency will be able to respond to the request within the standard time limit established by the FOIA – approximately one month. In other instances more time may be needed before the request can be completed. When an agency requires an extension of time, it will notify you in writing and provide you with an opportunity to modify or limit the scope of your request. Alternatively, you may agree to a different timetable for the processing of your request.)
Obtaining FOIA records (contact information):
For Federal Agency Records: From the Department of Agriculture to the Tennessee Valley Authority to the USPTO: here.
For State Agency Records: Research the agency’s contact information independently as there is no there is no central state-by-state agency FOIA office registry (given the varying agencies by state) and then avail yourself of the following useful tools:
- State FOI Resources from NFOIC here.
- Sample FOIA Request Letters for all states.
- FOI Hotlines across the country, for assistance in answering your FOIA questions.
BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.
As always, stay safe.