Why should I apply or wait for a Freedom of Information Act request?
A FOIA request can take several months to process unless the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) determines that there is a “compelling need” to expedite the request.
For this reason, many clients want to move forward on various aspects of their immigration cases without seeing the results of their FOIA.
There are certain situations in which it would be wise to apply for and wait for your FOIA prior to trying to apply for and receive any immigration benefit.
You may have a hazy memory regarding the details of your entry to the United States.
For example, you may remember having entered with a different visa or an unusual notation in your passport. If you don’t have your original passport and visa/s a FOIA could possibly help you fill in the blanks. This situation is common in cases in which your last entry was a long time ago or if you entered as a child. If you entered as a child, you should obtain papers proving your entry into the United States because your parent or guardian might not clearly remember the facts.
Additionally, it is common for individuals to use the services of a different immigration attorney, or, more regrettably, the services of a paralegal or “notario” prior to coming to our offices. In those cases, you may remember the end result, for example a work permit or a denial, but you may not know exactly what the professional did on your behalf. This lack of information can have consequences on the immigration benefits for which you are currently eligible.
Finally, in some cases the notes found in the FOIA can paint your case in a different light.
There may be notes regarding things you said to immigration officers in the past that you don’t remember.
There also may be notes that are incorrect. These are situations in which what you don’t know can hurt you. You may have to address the contents of your FOIA prior to moving forward in receiving a new immigration benefit.
Not everyone needs a FOIA, some individuals have only been in the United States briefly and their stays are properly documented with passports, visas, and I-94s. In other cases, if any details are unclear, it is best to use a FOIA in order to fill in the blanks and best decide how to proceed.