FOIA Requests

How to File a FOIA Request

You can submit a FOIA request to the Department for any agency record that is not publicly available. When filing your request, describe as best as possible the records you are requesting. In your description include information such as:

    • the date and place the records were created
    • file descriptions, subject matter, persons involved, and
    • other pertinent details that will help identify the records for which you are asking.

Please Note:
  • The FOIA applies only to federal agencies and does not create a right of access to records held by Congress, the courts, or by state or local government agencies.
  • The FOIA does not require agencies to:
      • conduct research for you;
      • analyze data;
      • answer written questions; or
      • create records (such as lists or statistics).

FOIA requests must be submitted to the Department in writing. The FOIAonline system is also available for you to submit your requests electronically. FOIAonline is a multi-agency FOIA tracking and processing tool that allows requesters to register as a user to:

 

    • submit FOIA requests (to participating agencies);
    • track progress on each request; and
    • communicate directly with the staff handling requests at all points in the process.

Guest users are welcome to use the FOIAonline system to submit requests, search for previously released records, and generate reports, but the tracking and communications features will not be available.

Requests can also be submitted to the Department by paper copy or through the electronic FOIA request mailbox eFOIA. When making a request, please include a mailing address so we may contact you if necessary. Keep a copy of your request; you may need to refer to it for further correspondence with the agency.


What Information to Include in Your FOIA Request

When submitting a FOIA request clearly state that you are requesting documents under the Freedom of Information Act.. As part of your request, you should also include:

    • Your contact information (full name, address, phone number, and email address);
    • As many details as possible about the information you’re seeking from the Department of Commerce (for example “A log of FOIA requests received between Jan. 1, 2013, and the present”);
    • Indicate whether you are willing to pay fees for searching, reviewing, and/or duplicating records and if so, the amount you are willing to pay. You may request that fees be waived pursuant to procedures established in Department's FOIA regulations, 15 CFR Section 4.11(l), which outlines the factors we rely on when determining whether the statutory standard for granting a fee waiver has been met:
          1. The subject of the requested records must concern identifiable operations or activities of the Federal Government.
          2. The disclosable portions of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about Government operations or activities in order to be “likely to contribute” to and increase public understanding of those operations or activities.
          3. The disclosure of the requested information must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester.
          4. The disclosure of the requested information is likely to contribute “significantly” to the public’s understanding of Government operations or activities.
          5. Whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requester.
          6. Whether any identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently great, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure, such that the disclosure is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
      Please make sure you include a waiver justification that addresses the above factors.

Sample FOIA Request Letter

Date

Freedom of Information Act Request

ATTN: FOIA Office
(select appropriate address information above depending on the manner of delivery)

To Whom it May Concern:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting copies of [identify the records as clearly and specifically as possible, specifying dates and record location if possible].

If there are any fees for searching or copying the records, please let me know before you fill my request. [Or, please supply the records without informing me of the cost if the fees do not exceed $______, which I agree to pay.]

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of appeal procedures available under the law. Optional: If you have any questions about handling this request, you may telephone me at ___________ (home phone) or at ___________ (office phone).

Sincerely,

Full Name
Your contact information (address, phone number, and email address)


Request Records About Yourself Under the Privacy Act

Under the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, you may request copies of any Department of Commerce records that:

      • are about you; and
      • are filed and can be retrieved by your name or a personal identifier (such as your Social Security number).

You can also ask the Department to correct records that are inaccurate, incomplete, untimely, or irrelevant.

Request Records About Yourself Under the Privacy Act

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Questions and Comments

Send Questions or Comments on the Commerce Open Government program to eFOIA@doc.gov.

 

Office of Privacy and Open Government
Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

Page last updated: October 28, 2016