U.S. Code of Federal Regulations

Regulations most recently checked for updates: Nov 26, 2022

§ 171.1 - General provisions.

(a) This subpart contains the rules that the Department of State and the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB), an independent body, follow in processing requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552,as,and,5.S.C. 552a, as amended. Records of the Department shall be made available to the public upon request made in compliance with the access procedures established in this part, except for any records exempt by law from disclosure. Regulations at 22 CFR 172.1 through 172.9 govern, inter alia, the service of subpoenas, court orders, and other demands or requests for official Department information or action, as well as the Department's response to demands or requests for official Department information or action in connection with legal proceedings in the United States to which the Department is not a party.

(b) Definitions. (1) For purposes of subparts A, B, and D of this part, record means information regardless of its physical form or characteristics - including information created, stored, and retrievable by electronic means - that is created or obtained by the Department and under the control of the Department at the time of the request, including information maintained for the Department by an entity under Government contract for records management purposes. It does not include records that are not already in existence and that would have to be created specifically to respond to a request. Information available in electronic form shall be searched and compiled in response to a request unless such search and compilation would significantly interfere with the operation of the Department's automated information systems.

(2) For purposes of subparts A, B, C, and D of this part, Department means the United States Department of State, including its field offices and Foreign Service posts abroad.

§ 171.2 - Types of records maintained.

Most of the records maintained by the Department pertain to the formulation and execution of U.S. foreign policy. The Department also maintains certain records that pertain to individuals, such as applications for U.S. passports, applications for visas to enter the United States, records on consular assistance given abroad by U.S. Foreign Service posts to U.S citizens and legal permanent residents, and records on Department employees. Further information on the types of records maintained by the Department may be obtained by reviewing the Department's records disposition schedules, which are available on the Department's Web site at www.foia.state.gov.

§ 171.3 - Records available on the Department's Web site.

Information that is required to be published in the Federal Register under 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1) is regularly updated by the Department and found on its public Web site: www.state.gov. Records that are required by the FOIA to be made available for public inspection and copying under 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(2) also are available on the Department's public Web site. Included on the Department's FOIA home page, www.foia.state.gov, are links to other sites where Department information may be available, links to the Department's PA systems of records, and the Department's records disposition schedules. Also available on the FOIA Web site are certain records released by the Department pursuant to requests under the FOIA and compilations of records reviewed and released in certain special projects. In addition, see 22 CFR part 173 regarding materials disseminated abroad by the Department.

§ 171.4 - Requests for information - types and how made.

(a) Requests for records made in accordance with subparts A, B, and C of this part must be made in writing and may be made by mail addressed to the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS), U.S. Department of State, State Annex 2 (SA-2), 515 22nd Street, NW., Washington, DC 20522-8100, or by fax to (202) 261-8579, or through the Department's FOIA Web site (www.foia.state.gov). PA requests may be made by mail or fax only. IPS does not accept requests submitted by email.

(1) Requests for passport records that are covered under PA System of Records Notice 26, including passport records issued from 1925 to present, should be mailed to U.S. Department of State, Law Enforcement Liaison Division, CA/PPT/S/L/LE, 44132 Mercure Cir, P.O. Box 1227, Sterling, VA 20166. Further guidance on obtaining passport records is available on the Department's Web site: travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/services/obtain-copies-of-passport-records.html.

(2) Requests for records of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) may be submitted to U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General, Office of General Counsel, Washington, DC 20520-0308, ATTN: FOIA officer. In addition, FOIA requests seeking OIG records may be submitted via email to oigfoia@state.gov, which is preferred. PA requests are accepted by mail only. Guidance is available on the OIG's Web site: oig.state.gov/foia/index.htm.

(3) All other requests for other Department records must be submitted to the Office of Information Programs and Services by one of the means noted above. The Office of Information Programs and Services, the Law Enforcement Liaison Division of the Office of Passport Services, and the OIG are the only Department components authorized to accept FOIA requests submitted to the Department.

(4) Providing the specific citation to the statute under which a requester is requesting information will facilitate the processing of the request by the Department. The Department automatically processes requests for information maintained in a PA system of records under both the FOIA and the PA to provide the requester with the greatest degree of access to the requester. Such information may be withheld only if it is exempt from access under both laws; if the information is exempt under only one of the laws, it must be released.

(b) Although no particular format is required, a request must reasonably describe the Department records that are sought. To the extent that requests are specific and include all pertinent details about the requested information, it will be easier for the Department to locate responsive records. For FOIA requests, such details include the subject, timeframe, names of any individuals involved, a contract number (if applicable), and reasons why the requester believes the Department may have records on the subject of the request.

(c) While every effort is made to guarantee the greatest possible access to all requesters regardless of the statute(s) under which the information is requested, the following guidance is provided for the benefit of requesters:

(1) The Freedom of Information Act applies to requests for records concerning the general activities of government and of the Department in particular (see subpart B of this part).

(2) The Privacy Act applies to requests from U.S. citizens or legal permanent resident aliens for records that pertain to them that are maintained by the Department in a system of records retrievable by the individual's name or personal identifier (see subpart C of this part).

(d) As a general matter, information access requests are processed in the order in which they are received. However, if the request is specific and the search can be narrowed, it may be processed more quickly. Additionally, FOIA requests granted expedited processing will be placed in the expedited processing queue (see § 171.11(f) for more information). Multi-tracking of FOIA requests is also used to manage requests (see § 171.11(h)).

§ 171.5 - Archival records.

The Department ordinarily transfers records designated as historically significant to the National Archives when they are 25 years old. Accordingly, requests for some Department records 25 years old or older should be submitted to the National Archives by mail addressed to Special Access and FOIA Staff (NWCTF), 8601 Adelphi Road, Room 5500, College Park, MD 20740; by fax to (301) 837-1864; or by email to specialaccess_foia@nara.gov. The Department's Web site, www.foia.state.gov, has additional information regarding archival records.