Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552, as amended), generally provides any person with the statutory right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to government information in executive branch agency records. This right to access is limited when such information is protected from disclosure by one of FOIA's nine statutory exemptions.

Types of Records in the National Archives' Legal Custody

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) processes Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for two distinct types of records in our legal custody:  archival and operational.  There are a few ways to make FOIA requests for archival and operational records — it starts with selecting the right type of record. 

Archival Records

  • Records created by executive branch agencies and the White House that have been transferred into the legal custody of the National Archives.
  • These include records subject to the Presidential Records Act (PRA) that have been transferred to NARA since the Reagan Administration. (FOIA does not apply to records of Congress and the Supreme Court, archival records created by Legislative and Judicial branches, or to records at the pre-Reagan Presidential Libraries.)
  • Archival records are located at NARA's archival facilities in the Washington, DC, area and around the country, as well as at our Presidential Libraries.

Learn how to file your Archival FOIA request

Learn more about requesting highly sensitive historical records subject to FOIA: Special Access and FOIA Program


Track Pending Archival and Operational FOIA Requests

Operational Records 

  • Records created by NARA and its employees in the process of carrying out its mission and responsibilities as an executive branch agency.
  • These records include contracts, agency policies, employee directories, and other types of policy, administrative, and personnel records.
  • These requests are processed by NARA's Office of General Counsel.

FOIAOnline File your Operational FOIA request using FOIAOnline

or you can submit your request for operational records by:


Learn more about requesting operational and archival records: Freedom of Information Act Reference Guide


Electronic Reading Room

Contains information routinely available to the public as well as documents frequently requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  The list of items will continue to grow as we add records in which the public expresses an interest.


FOIA Resources (OGIS)

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) resource for the public and the government.

Congress has charged OGIS with reviewing FOIA policies, procedures and compliance of federal agencies and to recommend changes to FOIA based on what they see.

Their mission also includes resolving FOIA disputes between federal agencies and requesters.

Best Practices for Filing a FOIA Request / Tips