Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed by Congress in 1966 under President Lyndon B. Johnson and went into effect on July 4, 1967. The purpose of the FOIA is to give American citizens more access to the federal Government’s records. The American public has the right to request and receive a response to their request. A FOIA request is used when a government document is not publicly available and federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions. These exemptions include personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement. While the FOIA does not ensure that the requestor has the right to obtain the document/s they seek, the government agency must give a reason for denying the request.

How long will it take to receive my FOIA document?

The average wait time is between 3-6 months. FOIA Professional Services will contact you regarding the status of the request until government response is received.

Are there any additional Government charges?

If an agency estimates that the total fees for processing your request will exceed the amount you agree to pay (for example, $25.00), FOIA Professional Services will receive a notification in writing of the estimate and offers our customers an opportunity to narrow their request in order to reduce the fees. Once our customer agrees to pay the fees for a record search, they are required to pay the Government fees within 5 business days.

Can I avoid paying Government fees?

FOIA Professional Services may request a waiver of fees. Please specify in your request form that you would like us to request that fees be waived and reasons why this information is in the public interest. Under the FOIA, fee waivers are limited to situations in which a requester shows that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. Requests for fee waivers from individuals who are seeking records on themselves usually do not meet this standard. In addition, a requester’s inability to pay fees is not a legal basis for granting a fee waiver.

Are FOIA Requests ever rejected by the government? (The information below is from

  1. Not all records can be released under the FOIA.  Congress established certain categories of information that are not required to be released in response to a FOIA request because release would be harmful to a government or private interest.  These categories are called “exemptions” from disclosures.  Still, even if an exemption applies, agencies may use their discretion to release information when there is no foreseeable harm in doing so and disclosure is not otherwise prohibited by law.  There are nine categories of exempt information and each is described below.

           Exemption 1: Information that is classified to protect national security.
           Exemption 2: Information related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.
           Exemption 3: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.
           Exemption 4: Trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is confidential or privileged.
           Exemption 5: Privileged communications within or between agencies, including:
                                    Attorney-Client Privilege
                                    Attorney-Work Product Privilege
                                    Deliberative Process Privilege
           Exemption 6: Information that, if disclosed, would invade another individual’s personal privacy.
           Exemption 7: Information compiled for law enforcement purposes that:
                                    7(A). Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings
                                    7(B). Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication
                                    7(C). Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
                                    7(D). Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source
                                    7(E). Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions
                                    7(F). Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual
           Exemption 8: Information that concerns the supervision of financial institutions.
           Exemption 9: Geological information on wells.