By Kimberly N. Epstein, Freedom of Information Act Officer
Save time getting your information. Many people are surprised to learn that not every request for information is a FOIA request. Understanding what information we don’t provide can save you from “barking up the wrong tree.”
By law, a FOIA request is a request for an existing federal agency record, such as a report, a letter, an email or an application.
FOIA is for federal records. The FOIA applies to federal agencies and their records. It does not apply to state or local records.
Agencies don’t keep records forever. How long agency records are kept is decided according to a schedule published by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), available at http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/grs/. The records schedule describes general categories of records and how long the records in each category are kept. Permanent records not needed on a daily basis may be stored in a NARA facility; other records may be destroyed according to the records schedule. Certain records of historical importance are transferred to the legal custody of NARA and must be requested from the NARA FOIA Office: http://www.archives.gov/foia/foia-guide.html#how.