What is the Freedom of Information (FOIA)?

A Federal law that establishes the public's right to request existing records from Federal Government agencies. Some records may be withheld or partially withheld if the information falls under one, or more, of nine FOIA exemptions (link).

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.

What type of information can be requested?

A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. Agencies are not required to create new records or to conduct research, analyze data, or answer questions when responding to requests.

How do I file a FOIA request with the Peace Corps?

A request must be made in writing, using only one of the following methods:

Include your telephone number and email address and state your willingness to pay applicable fees. Or, if you seek a fee waiver, provide a justification for such a waiver.

Important: 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.

Do I have to pay for a FOIA request? 

There is no initial fee required to submit a FOIA request, but the FOIA does provide for the charging of certain types of fees in some instances. The Peace Corps will assume that requesters agree to pay all charges for services associated with their requests up to $25 unless otherwise indicated by the requester. Fees are based on the amount of time it takes to process a request, the number of pages provided, and a requester's fee category (educational, news media, commercial, or other).

  • Commercial requesters are charged fees for search time, review time, and duplication costs.
  • Educational and news media requesters are charged for duplication costs in excess of 100 pages.
  • Other requesters are charged fees for search time in excess of two hours and duplication costs in excess of 100 pages.

Can a FOIA request fee be waived? 

Any requester may ask for a fee waiver. Fees will be waived or reduced below established fee rates if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the Peace Corps or Federal government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

Are all records releasable under FOIA? 

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.

The FOIA gives a person the right to request access to Federal records. However, some records may be protected from release, including but not limited to:

  • Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.
  • Trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is confidential or privileged.
  • Privileged communications within or between agencies, including deliberative process, attorney-client and attorney-work product.
  • Information that, if released, would invade an individual’s personal privacy. Information compiled for law enforcement purposes.

How long will it take for my FOIA request to be processed? 

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.

Examples of unusual circumstances include:

  • The need to search for and collect the requested records from other facilities that are separate from the approving office. Or, the need to search for, collect, and examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records.
  • The need for consultation with other agencies having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.

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.

Can I request expedited processing? 

Yes, if there is a compelling reason for your request. Examples of compelling needs are:

  • Normal delivery of the record could 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.

What are the requirements to get records on myself? 

If you are seeking records on yourself, you will be required to verify your identity in order to protect your privacy and to ensure that private information about you is not disclosed inappropriately to someone else. When requesting information about yourself, you will be asked to provide either a notarized statement or a statement signed under penalty of perjury stating that you are the person who you say you are. You may fulfill this requirement by completing and signing Form DOJ-361 (link).

Alternatively, you may provide your full name, current address, and date and place of birth and either:

(1) have your signature on your request letter witnessed by a notary, or

(2) include the following statement immediately above the signature on your request letter: "I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [date]."

If you request information about yourself and do not follow one of these procedures, your request cannot be processed.