Stumped by a request for an old H-1B document? FOIA can help you get all your records.
With greater visa scrutiny and an increase in the number of RFEs or Request for Evidence being issued by the USCIS these days, more and more applicants have to look for old approval documents or notices that they thought would not be needed anymore.
Often, during pending adjustment of status or visa extension processes, one may require an old H-1B approval notice or a copy of approved I-140 immigration petition for foreign workers.
What would you do if these documents are no longer with you?
Instead of running to an attorney to try to explain to USCIS that you do not have a copy of the document, there is something much simpler that you could do.
You can simply file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the federal immigration authorities.
While many know that authorities have a record of all your immigration history, most people do not know that they have the right to ask for these documents whenever they wish to.
What is FOIA?
Passed in 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides the public the right to access request to any of their records from across any federal agency.
An important tool for the citizens to know. Under the law, federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested by any member of the public.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule which protect interests such as national security and law enforcement.
FOIA also requires the agencies to actively update online certain categories of information as well as frequently requested records.
How to make a request?
Before you submit your request, you may want to check if the information you are seeking is already publicly available. If not, then you can make a request to FOIA office of the agency you seek the information from.
Most requests can be made through an e-mail, fax or in writing. It must be clearly states what information you are seeking.
Which form should I be filling?
There is no specific form that needs to be filled for requesting FOIA. All you need to do is concisely state the information you are seeking.
It may help to check out the said federal agency’s website to know if you need anything in specific to request information from a certain federal agency.
What format you can receive the document in?
The agencies can provide your records both in printed or electronic formats. All you need to do is specify which format would you prefer your documents in.
Now as is important in most federal documentation processes these days, it is imperative to know how much time the agency would take to send across your requested information.
Since you may be requesting an earlier documentation because as you need to reply to USCIS within a certain time frame, it may come as a damper that there is no fixed timeline to the process.
The documents are issued depending on the complexity of the issue and the backlog of pending requests within the agency.
However, users of the service confirm that if the information you are seeking is simple and does not require complex and a lot of paperwork it’s not a long wait.
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