Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request
Form G-639 and FOIA Explained
What is Form G-639 used for?
Individuals may file Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request, to obtain access to USCIS immigration records. You can make the request for yourself or, in certain situations, can file a request for another person's immigration records.
The Freedom of Information Act, also known simply as FOIA, is an American law that requires the full or partial disclosure of information and documents controlled by the United States government upon request. In the case of immigration records, you may request a copy of what the government has in it’s files. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency that possesses the information.
Filing a FOIA request (Form G-639) is an excellent way to understand what USCIS knows about you. That’s why immigration attorneys regularly use a FOIA request to gather information about their clients. Attorneys want to get all available information so that they can provide informed advice. The FOIA request is also a great way to get information about your family genealogy. You can gather actual records filed by a family member that immigrated to the United States many years ago.
Proper Ways to Use a FOIA Request
What can I request with G-639?
Correct Uses of Form G-639 for Immigration Records
An individual may use Form G-639 to:
- Request his or her own immigration records
- Request immigration records of another person (with that person's consent)
- Correct or amend these records
For most requests, USCIS will provide copies of these records at no cost to you. (Requests that require significant hours and photocopying will incur fees.)
Incorrect Uses of Form G-639 for Immigration Records
You should not file Form G-639 for any of the following reasons:
- To determine the status of a pending application. Instead, call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
- For consular notification of a visa petition approval. Instead, use Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition.
- To request the return of original documents. Instead, use Form G-884, Request for Return of Original Documents.
- To request records of naturalization prior to September 27, 1906. Instead, write the clerk of court where the naturalization occurred.
- To request information on USCIS manifest arrivals prior to December 1982. Instead, write the National Archives.
- To obtain proof of status (i.e. Social Security benefit, Selective Service requirement).
G-639 Online Filing
Can I file Form G-639 online?
The USCIS online FOIA request service is a fast and convenient way to request and receive records from USCIS. You'll also be able to check the status of your case online after you've filed. Your ability to be specific about the documents needed is critical for your search. USCIS will inform you if you've made the request incorrectly.
For people who want to make sure they are preparing the form correctly, CitizenPath offers an affordable service created by immigration attorneys. CitizenPath’s FOIA Request Package makes the form easy and gives you alerts if there’s a problem. You’ll also receive detailed filing instructions so you know exactly which supporting documents to submit with your form.
Or, you can download a copy of the Form G-639 PDF from the USCIS website. Occasionally, USCIS publishes new editions of the form. Make sure you are using an edition which USCIS accepts. Although you may use black ink to fill in your Form G-639 by hand, it’s preferable to file a typed form. This helps prevent mistakes and may improve intake speed.
Form G-639 Instructions
How do I fill out G-639?
If you're not filing online at USCIS, CitizenPath's easy-to-use website helps you prepare the request quickly and accurately. Our online service provides step-by-step G-639 instructions to make it easy. We even give you a money-back guarantee that USCIS will act on your request.
If you prefer to fill out the Form G-639 PDF, you can download instructions from USCIS or follow this summary of directions.
- Type or print answers in black ink only.
- Enter “N/A” if an answer is not applicable and "NONE" if your answer is zero.
- Foreign language documents must be accompanied by a full English certified translation.
- Submit photocopies for all supporting documents unless an original document is specifically required.
- For Type of Request, indicate if you will be "requesting" information through the Freedom of Information Act or "amending" information through the Privacy Act (PA).
- For Requestor Information, answer if you are submitting Form G-639 for yourself of another person. If you are filing for yourself, you are the Subject of Record and you should skip the balance of questions in Part 2.
- For Representative Role to the Subject of Record, indicate your relationship with the Subject of Record.
- For Description of Records Requested, explain why you are making the request. When you prepare a FOIA request, be as specific as possible about which documents you need. USCIS is able to respond more quickly to requests for specific documents compared to a large set of records, such as entire A-Files.
- For the balance of Part 3, provide as much information as possible regarding the Subject of Record. This information helps USCIS personnel search their records to find the information you need.
Parts 4 and 5
- For Verification of Identity and Subject of Record Consent, provide detailed information regarding the Subject's identity and contact information.
- For Signature of the Subject Record, you will sign if you're filing Form G-639 for yourself. If the request is for another person, that individual will need to sign. Note the checkbox for cases when the Subject of Record is deceased. The Subject of Record must sign the form using a sworn declaration or have it notarized. For a more extensive explanation for signing, see our FOIA FAQs.
- For Processing Information, indicate if any of the circumstances apply to your request. If you can provide adequate evidence of the situation, USCIS will likely expedite your request.
This is an abbreviated list of Form G-639 instructions. Download USCIS instructions or use CitizenPath’s service to prepare the form. CitizenPath provides filing instructions customized to your situation. You’ll get detailed G-639 instructions that explain which supporting documents to submit, how to organize, and where to mail.
Filing Address for a USCIS FOIA Request
Where to mail Form G-639?
USCIS accepts FOIA requests online and by mail (Form G-639). They do not want requestors to submit the form in-person at USCIS offices. Instead, they receive and process all requests at the USCIS National Benefits Center. Individuals using a FOIA request to locate arrival/departure records can also file Form G-639 to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
If you're mailing a G-639 FOIA request to USCIS, send it to:
National Records Center (NRC)
P.O. Box 648010
Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010
If you're mailing a G-639 FOIA request to CBP, send it to:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
90 K Street, NE
Washington, DC 20229
G-639 Processing Time
How long does an immigration FOIA request take?
USCIS can take from a few weeks to a few months to respond to a Form G-639 FOIA request. The processing time depends on the nature of the request plus several other factors. Simple requests for specific documents are generally fulfilled more quickly. Requests for large sets of documents or an entire alien file will often take several months. In certain cases when you have scheduled hearing with an immigration judge or other specific extraordinary circumstances, you may request expedited processing.
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.
After you submit your request, USCIS will generally mail a letter of acknowledgement within 20 business days (about a month). FOIA requests are becoming more common; thus, it often takes longer. The letter confirms receipt and includes a FOIA control number. Whether you made your request online or by mail, you'll be able to check the status of the request online. You will need the FOIA control number included in your receipt message.
How CitizenPath Helps You
Can I get help preparing Form G-639?
There is no fee to file this form online at USCIS. However, they also do not provide support to make sure your request is done right.
CitizenPath's affordable, online service makes it easy to prepare Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request. Designed by immigration lawyers, the FOIA Request Package helps you eliminate the common errors that create delays and dead-ends. When preparing your request, you can reach out to our team to confirm it's done correctly. You'll also get customized filing instructions based on your situation. It's a powerful, do-it-yourself tool that puts you in control. And we've got your back -- CitizenPath provides live customer support and provides a money-back guarantee that USCIS provide your requested files (if available). Get started >>
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