The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires that USCIS acknowledge your request within 20 business days from the date received. (Note: 20 business days is approximately a month.) You should receive an acknowledgement letter from USCIS that contains a control number and an estimate on time frame. However, if you have not provided sufficient information to process the request, USCIS may respond with a request for additional information. Additionally, USCIS may extend the response time for an additional 10 business days in certain situations. The total Form G-639 processing time depends on the nature of your request and several other factors. For certain situations, it may be possible to expedite the FOIA request.
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Typical G-639 Processing Time
Processing times for Form G-639 and other USCIS FOIA requests can vary significantly based on the nature of the request. Simple requests for specific documents may only take 4 to 12 weeks. However, more complex requests and requests for entire immigration files can take approximately 6 months. For this reason, limit your request to what you need.
Multi-Track Processing for Form G-639
USCIS uses a three-track, first-in/first-out (FIFO) processing system. This system is one of the most significant factors that affects Form G-639 processing time. Your FOIA request will be assigned to a track based on several criteria.
- Track 1 is for less complex cases in which a requester needs only one or only a few specific documents from the file.
- Track 2 is for more complex cases. A complete copy of a file, requests from the news media, or special interest groups are examples of Track 2 cases. If USCIS receives a request for specific documents which implies most of the file (for instance, “the asylum application and all supporting documents,”) they will assign the request to the complex track.
- Track 3 is an accelerated track for cases involving individuals who are to appear before an immigration judge. In order to receive Track 3 priority processing, you must include one of several documents required with the FOIA request.
Check the Status of a FOIA Request
After filing Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act (FOIA) Request, you will receive an acknowledgement letter from USCIS that contains a control number and an estimate on time frame. (Again, you should receive this letter within 20 business days.) With the control number provided to you, you can check that status of your case using the online FOIA Request Status Check.
Track 3 Priority Processing
In some cases you can receive priority processing after filing Form G-639, Freedom of Information Act Request. In cases involving individuals who are to appear before an immigration judge, USCIS will assign “Track 3 priority processing.” that can dramatically improve the G-639 processing time. In order to receive Track 3 priority processing, you must include at least one of the following documents with the FOIA request:
- Form I-862, Notice to Appear, documenting a future scheduled date of the subject’s hearing before the immigration judge
- Form I-122, Order to Show Cause, documenting a future scheduled date of the subject’s hearing before the immigration judge
- Form I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge
- A written notice of continuation of a future scheduled hearing before the immigration judge
If you do not meet the requirements for priority processing of Form G-639, you may qualify for expedited processing.
G-639 Expedited Processing Guidelines
Normally, USCIS processes FOIA requests (Form G-639, Freedom of Information Act Request) using a first-in, first-out method. In extraordinary situations, the requester can ask for a request to be expedited so that it skips ahead in the normal first-in, first-out method.
USCIS may grant expedited processing if the requester establishes either:
- Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or
- An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged federal government activity, if made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information.
USCIS makes a decision for expedited processing on a case-by-case basis in accordance with established guidelines (6 C.F.R. §5.5(d)).
How to Request Expedited Processing
Submit a cover letter with Form G-639 that makes your request for expediting processing. Your request for expedited processing must include statement, certified true and correct, explaining the basis for requesting expedited treatment.
USCIS will make a decision to grant or deny an expedited processing request within 10 calendar days of receiving the request. If a decision is made to deny the request, USCIS will advise you of the reason, and USCIS will process your G-639 FOIA Request using the normal first-in, first-out method. You may resubmit the request or appeal the denial decision.