Virginia Commonwealth University

Make it real.

FOIA Quick Facts

May 14, 2010

Various levels of government have Freedom of Information Acts. There’s a federal FOIA (to get information from federal agencies) as well as a Virginia FOIA (to obtain information from state agencies). The laws operate in similar ways. Here’s a rundown on the federal FOIA.

What is FOIA?

A law that allows the public to access government records.

Who may file a FOIA request?


Where may I send a request?

All federal executive branch agencies (except the president and some White House offices).

What may I ask for?

Any records the agency retains (paper, electronic, etc.)

How long does it take?

The law requires agencies to respond within 20 days, but it often takes months or years.

How much does it cost?

It depends on the request and the requester. Some requesters are eligible for reduced fees.

May I challenge the agency’s decision?

Yes. You may appeal and/or litigate a denial.

Source: National Security Archive

Index to User-Friendly Guide to FOIA