Frequently Asked Questions
What is the FOIA?
The FOIA is a Federal law that establishes the public's right to request existing records from Federal Government agencies.
Who can file a FOIA request?
Any "person" can file a FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, universities, businesses, and state and local governments.
Who is subject to the FOIA and what type of information can be requested?
The FOIA's scope includes Federal Executive Branch Departments, agencies, and offices, Federal regulatory agencies, and Federal corporations. Congress, the Federal Courts, and parts of the Executive Office of the President are not subject to the FOIA. State and local governments are likewise not subject to the Federal FOIA, but some states have their own equivalent access laws for state records.
What is a record?
A record is the product(s) of data compilation, such as all books, papers, maps, and photographs, machine readable materials, inclusive of those in electronic form or format, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law in connection with the transaction of public business and in Peace Corps possession and control at the time the FOIA request is made.
Can we ask questions under the FOIA?
The FOIA does not require Federal Agencies to answer questions, render opinions, or provide subjective evaluations. Requesters must ask for existing records, such as those mentioned above.
How do I file a FOIA request with the Peace Corps?
A request must be in writing, can be sent via regular mail, email or facsimile and should be labeled "Freedom of Information Act Request," preferably within the request letter and envelope or in the subject. Select only one of the following methods to transmit your request:
Office of Management
1111 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20526
Online FOIA Request
Submit or Review a Request
To expedite your request, please include your telephone number and e-mail address and state your willingness to pay applicable fees. If you seek a fee waiver, provide a justification for such a waiver.
Describe the specific records you are requesting in enough detail so that they can be located with a reasonable amount of effort. Generally, a record is reasonably described when the description contains sufficient file-related information (type of document, title, subject area, date of creation, originator, etc.); or the request contains enough event-related information (date and circumstances surrounding the event the record covers) to permit the conduct of an organized, non-random search. See Appendix A for a sample FOIA request letter .
- Regular Mail
Does the Peace Corps maintain any records that are exempt from disclosure?
Yes. In the event a request for any records or information is made which is denied by the Peace Corps, the requester will be advised of the basis for the denial. Such records include:
- Records currently and properly classified in the interest of national security;
- Records related solely to internal personnel rules and practices;
- Records protected by another law that specifically exempts the information from public release;
- Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a private source which would cause substantial competitive harm to the source if disclosed;
- Internal records that are deliberative in nature and are part of the decision making process that contain opinions and recommendations;
- Records which, if released, would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; and
- Investigatory records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes.
What is a denial?
When information is withheld, whether partially or fully, this constitutes adenial under FOIA. A request may be denied for one or more of the aforementionedexemptions. When this happens, you will be notified in writing and given appealrights. If your request is denied partially you will receive information thathas portions deleted.
Can I appeal a denial?
Yes. If your request is initially denied in whole or in part because it seeks information which is exempt from disclosure, you will be advised of your appeal rights and the proper procedures for submitting the appeal. If you are not satisfied with the appeal determination, you may seek a judicial review.
How long will it take for my appeal to be processed?
This is a difficult question to answer because of the size of Peace Corps and its worldwide locations. In fairness to all requesters, the Peace Corps processes requests in order by date of receipt and according to their complexity. These are called easy and hard queuing tracks. Whenever possible, an initial determination to release or deny a record is made within 20 working days after receipt of the request by the FOIA Officer.
If unusual circumstances exist that preclude a timely response, that office will give an estimated completion date and reason(s) for delay. Unusual circumstances include:
- Need to search for and collect the requested records from other facilities that are separate from the office determined responsible for a release or denial decision on the requested information. The need to search for, collect, and examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are requested in a single request.
- The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with other agencies having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.
To receive expedited processing, the requester must demonstrate one of the following compelling needs:
- Failure to obtain the records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual.
- Information is urgently needed by an individual primarily engaged in disseminating information in order to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.
- Other reasons that merit expedited processing are an imminent loss of substantial due process rights and humanitarian need.
Do I have to pay for a FOIA request?
The FOIA allows fees to be charged to certain types of requesters, but it also provides that waivers or reductions in fees be given if disclosing the informationis in the public interest.
All requesters should submit a willingness to pay fees regardless of the fee category; however, this does not mean you will be charged fees. Except for commercial requesters whose fees total more than $25, waivers are always considered. Fee waivers may be granted when disclosure of the records is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government. The following factors are weighed in making a fee waiver determination:
- The subject of the request
- The informative value of the information to be disclosed
- The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the general public likely to result from the disclosure
- The significance of the contribution to public understanding
- Disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester
- The ability of the requester to disseminate the information
Last updated Nov 20 2013
Online FOIA Request
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Contact the Peace Corps
Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters
1111 20th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20526
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