Each year we include a few case studies in our Annual Report to highlight the way that we can help assist FOIA requesters and agencies in resolving FOIA disputes. Today, we want to share one of the case studies from our Fiscal Year 2017 Report that shows how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provided great customer service to assist a requester’s representative in obtaining critical documents. We are proud to work with agency FOIA professionals to help better serve the FOIA community!
In FY 2017, OGIS was contacted by an immigration attorney representing an individual receiving full-time medical care. The individual no longer had access to his immigration documents or identification, all of which were needed to apply for a change in immigration status. The attorney filed a FOIA request with the USCIS for his client’s Alien File, or A-File, the official Government record that contains information regarding non-citizens as they pass through the U.S. immigration and inspection process. USCIS responded by releasing only a few documents; the attorney contacted OGIS for assistance.
OGIS contacted USCIS to learn more about the A-File request. USCIS FOIA staff explained that the agency was unable to locate an A-File for the individual because the agency did not have an “A” number, a unique personal identifier; the individual had entered the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa and therefore had not been issued an “A” number. USCIS confirmed that it had located and released all responsive records and that it had conducted an adequate search for responsive records.
USCIS was able to provide some additional information to OGIS that would assist the attorney. Specifically, the agency provided the name of the law firm that had assisted the same individual in a previous immigration matter. OGIS passed this information on to the individual’s attorney so he could contact the previous immigration attorney to obtain copies of additional documents in their files.
If you are interested in learning more about USCIS’ FOIA process, we hope you will join us for our Immigration Records Forum scheduled for August 30.