In many instances, a foreign national facing an immigration matter has a previous immigration file. This immigration file usually contains important clues to better assist an immigration attorney to understand their client’s case and formulate options.

A person’s immigration file(s) can be obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The FOIA provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.

A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. There are several distinct agencies involved in the immigration process and each has different types of records they maintain, as well as different procedures to request their release. Before sending a request to a federal agency, an immigration attorney will determine which agency is likely to have the records sought.

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