How to Make a FOIA Request

Step 1
Determine if the records you are seeking are with the Department of State.

The Department of State maintains records dealing with:

  • The formulation and execution of U.S. Foreign policy
  • The administration and operations of the Department of State and U.S. missions abroad
  • Applications from U.S. citizens for U.S. Passports
  • Visa requests from non-citizens to enter the U.S.
  • Consular assistance given to U.S. citizens abroad
  • Current and former employees of the Department of State

For more information on the organization and responsibility of the Department of State, go to Department Organization.

For more information on the temporary and permanent records maintained by the Department of State, go to Records Disposition Schedules.

In general, permanent records 25 years and older, pre-1925 passport and pre-1940 visa records are property of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on how to locate Department of State Records at the National Archives go to State Department Records in the National Archives.

Step 2
Determine whether the records you are seeking are available online.

Prior to making a request for Department of State records, you may wish to search for these records online by going to the Department of State’s Virtual Reading Room Documents Search and Administrative Rulings, Policy Statements, and Other Publications pages.

The Department of State’s search engine in the Virtual Reading Room Documents Search page will allow you to review thousands of documents by giving you control over how the information is organized.

The Administrative Rulings, Policy Statements, and Other Publications page contains copies of:
  1. "Final opinions [and] . . . orders" rendered in the adjudication of administrative cases
  2. Specific agency policy statements
  3. Certain administrative staff manuals
  4. As of March 31, 1997, records disclosed in response to a FOIA request that "the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records.“

Various policy statements, guidelines, and manuals may be located on the websites of the offices and bureaus within the Department (see the Alphabetical List of Bureaus and Offices).

Department of State historical records can be found in the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

Step 3
Draft your request.

There are no special forms needed for making a request for Department of State Records but your request should include the following information:
  • Your name, address, and daytime telephone number.
  • As much information as you can provide so that the Department can locate the requested material, including the subject, timeframe, any individuals involved, and reasons why the Department is believed to have records on the subject. It may be helpful to view the Department’s Records Disposition Schedules.
  • Determine your Fee Category and state the maximum amount of fees that you are willing to pay (please see the Fees, Requester Categories, & Fee Waivers page for more information). By making a FOIA request, you shall be considered to have agreed to pay all applicable fees up to $25, unless otherwise noted.
  • If you can demonstrate that a "compelling need" for the requested information exists, you may ask that your request be taken out of order and given expedited treatment (please see the Expeditious Handling page for more information).

If you are requesting a copy of a Department of State contract, please provide us with as much information that you have to enable us to conduct an adequate search, such as contract or solicitation number, name of the company awarded the contract, approximate date of the contract, etc.

Step 4
Send in your request to the Department of State.

You may mail or fax your request for Department of State records to the following address:
U. S. Department of State
Office of Information Programs and Services
2201 C Street N.W., Suite B266
Washington, D.C. 20520-0000
Fax (202) 485-1669

Please write "Freedom of Information Act" on the envelope or the subject line of your fax.

Public Access Link (PAL) portal

Register to create an online profile and Request records online using the Public Access Link (PAL) portal.