The Life of a Document

Records at the Department of State pass through several stages before they are destroyed or transferred to the National Archives. Understanding this life cycle may help you locate the records you are trying to locate.

The stages in the life cycle of Department of State records
  • A record is created to document the organization, functions, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the Department.
  • The record is reviewed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to determine its value, and thus its final disposition, temporary or permanent.
  • Temporary records are records appraised and approved for disposal after a specified period of time according to a NARA-approved records disposition schedule.
  • Records determined to have permanent value by NARA are reviewed for declassification when they reach 25 years of age (systematic review) and transferred to the National Archives.
  • After 25 years a record may remain exempt from disclosure. Concerns influencing this decision include national security, statutory prohibitions and personal privacy. While a record may be withheld longer than 25 years, the decision to withhold is subject to re-review upon request.
  • Once Department of State records have been accessioned to the National Archives, they are no longer under the legal control of the Department of State.