How to Make a Request for Personal Records

Step 1

Determine if the records you are seeking are within the Department of State

Types of personal records maintained by the U.S. Department of State:
  • Applications from U.S. Citizens for U.S. Passports
  • Investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security
  • Consular assistance given to U.S. Citizens abroad
  • Current and former employees of the Department of State

If you would like a copy of your Passport Records directly from the Office of Passport Services without having to file a FOIA request, please go here to Obtain Copies of Passport Records.

For a complete list of the Department’s records collections systems, go to the Impact Assessments (PIA) and the System of Records Notices (SORN) pages.

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 to request the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or the Privacy Act.

Privacy Act

If you are seeking records only about yourself, you may wish to request the information under the Privacy Act. Records retrieved in the processing of a request made under the Privacy Act will be processed under both the Privacy Act and the FOIA to ensure the greatest possible disclosure of those records.

In order to request information under the Privacy Act, you should be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

The Privacy Act permits access to your own records only if those records are within a system of records maintained by the Department of State that are retrieved by an individual's name or personal identifier.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

If you are making a request on behalf of someone else, your request will be processed under the Freedom of Information Act.

If you are requesting someone else’s personal information or requesting personal information on someone else’s behalf, please try to provide written consent from the individual whose records are being requested. The Department of State can and will process requests for someone else’s records without their written consent, but release of records will be severely limited to protect the privacy of the subject individuals.

Step 3

Draft your request.

There are no special forms required for making a request for personal records. When submitting a request, please include 1) a notarized statement or a statement signed under penalty of perjury stating that you are the person that you say you are and 2) your signature.

If you are signing under penalty of perjury, your request should be dated and should have your signature with the following statement:

I declare, certify, verify, or state under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America, that the foregoing is true and correct.
The following information should be provided with your request:
  1. Full Name (surname(s), given name(s), other distinguishing information (such as Jr., Sr., III), and any aliases or other names used)
  2. Date and place of birth (country, state/province, and city)
  3. Write down what information you are looking for with as much detail as possible to help us locate the information. Do not write your request in the form of a question but clearly state what records you are requesting.
  4. The offices or consulates originating or receiving the record
  5. The particular event, policy, or circumstance that led to the creation of the record
  6. Current address and telephone number
  7. Citizenship status
  8. Additional comments to help locate the record
Access to Someone Else’s Records

If you would like to request personal information about another individual or if you are requesting personal records on behalf of someone else, you should provide the following:

  1. Written consent from the individual whose records are being requested. Please provide a signed, notarized statement from the individual(s), authorizing the Department of State to release information to you. If you provide authorization, your request will be processed with the greatest possible access. If you do not or are unable to provide authorization, your request will be processed, but release of records will be severely restricted to protect the privacy of another individual.

    The authorization should bear the signature of the individual and seal of the notary and be dated within six months of the date of the request. If notarization is not possible, the individual(s) whose records are being requested may give authorization under penalty of perjury. The penalty of perjury statement must be mailed or faxed to us with a current date and a signature.

    You may submit the authorization on your letterhead or plain paper but DO NOT submit Third Party Authorizations on the Department of Justice or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services forms. Those forms only authorize the release of records from their respective agencies, not the Department of State. If you cannot provide the authorization please state so; note, however, that the possibility of obtaining documents will be severely restricted as a result. For more information, please see the information sheet on Authorization for the Release of Records to Another Individual.
  2. Determine your Fee Category.
  3. State the maximum amount of fees that you are willing to pay. By making a FOIA request, you shall be considered to have agreed to pay all applicable fees up to $25, unless otherwise noted.
Please Note:

In general, under the provisions of the FOIA and Privacy Act, access to information about private individuals cannot be given to unauthorized third parties absent the individuals’ written consent. The Department of State can and will process requests without consent, but release of records will be severely limited to protect the privacy of the subject individuals.

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:

Office of Information Programs and Services
2201 C Street N.W., Suite B266
Washington, D.C. 20520-0000

Facsimile: (202) 485-1669

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

Please Note:

If you submit a request that lacks sufficient information to enable us to process, you will be notified of what further information we need. In order to ensure the Department has everything we need to process your request, please review the Checklist for Personal Records.