FOIA request

Doing it right from the  start should be the only ‘rule of thumb’ when emigrating to the U.S.  Aliens come to this country for a wide array of reasons, the more common  is  to join their family and reside here or  just visit relatives and friends. There is an expectation from the U.S. government that your   intention is true, period.  After all, as foreigners, we are only requesting to be accommodated.

Nowadays, the government’s written policies on immigration demand a lot more from immigrants than merely establishing the fact of familial relationship as a reason for continued stay in the U.S.  The policies are not new; they have been in the books. There is  simply a renewed emphasis on an immigrant’s good moral character or capability to be an asset to society, as vital qualities to consider in approving a benefit applied for. The relevant government agencies have been coordinating  resources and streamlining information with the goal  to weed out ‘undesirables’. These agencies have now (unlike in the past) the capability of sharing information and records on file with a tap of a finger.  As an alien it is life saving to remember and be cognizant of  information you shared which are recorded in U.S. government databases, particularly, those used to gain entry into the country. These are different times.  Even  U.S. citizens  whose  immigration  has already been cleared, there could still  be parent/s,  children or sibling  waiting to be  petitioned.  Whether you have a photographic memory or just forgot what is in your records, it is important to obtain copies of application forms submitted where information had been written under oath.  Submissions made where “inconsistencies” may show and potentially could be deemed as a ‘lie’ at some future time, has to be looked into.  Misrepresentation of facts can cause the denial of a green card or a citizenship application, especially if one has a long history of undocumented stay in the United State

What is a FOIA request? The acronym stands for ‘Freedom of Information Act’. Such requests would allow aliens to retrieve  personal information pertaining to their emigration to the United States. It will allow  access to their immigration files.  When in doubt about declarations made pertaining to  personal circumstances, it is highly advisable to file a FOIA Request before proceeding to apply for the next immigration benefit.  Because of the complexity of immigration law, questions in application forms may be too technical for regular Janes or Joes. Without meaning to, facts may be misstated.  For instance, an alien would have been placed in removal proceedings before the court prior to obtaining a green card  although said proceeding was later terminated favorably.  There are a number of reasons why an alien is placed in removal proceedings ranging from unlawful presence, failed affirmative asylum, crimes committed, etc.  Such information would be necessary before  proceeding  to apply for citizenship. In another instance, a mother who has been in this country for the last 30 years with a U.S. born son who just turned 21 and eligible to petition her as a parent would want to check on information accumulated  over the years especially pertaining to  her immigration file.  Within those 30 years, she could havet (a) applied for benefits as an agricultural worker, (b) applied for a green card under the Reagan’s 1986 Amnesty Program, and (c) had been petitioned as a spouse of a U.S. citizen, but never succeeded in those attempts. A FOIA request is a ‘must’ in such a situation.  For those who just want to retain a copy of their immigration files, a FOIA request should equally be in order.  For all times, especially uncertain times, it is best to just do the right thing.

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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states. Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at [email protected] or go to for any questions on this article.

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