Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) FAQs


What is the Privacy Act? ›

What is the Freedom of InformationAct? ›

How do I make a FOIA request? ›

Is a person required to provide a reason for requesting agency records? ›

What does a FOIA request cost? ›

Can a FOIA request fee be waived? ›

Where do I submit my FOIA request? ›

When can I expect a response from my FOIA request? ›

Under what circumstances may I receive expedited processing for a FOIA request ›

Under what circumstances may records be withheld from a FOIA request? ›

What is the form that a PROCESS SERVER needs to file to Request Change of Address or Boxholder Information? ›

What is the format that a GOVERNMENT AGENCY uses to file to request Change of Address or Boxholder Information? ›

Does the US Postal Service provide a mailing list with its Change of Address (COA) database? ›

I am trying to find the address of a friend. Can you help or provide the Change of Address (COA) information? ›

What is the Privacy Act?
The Privacy Act of 1974, passed by Congress, protects certain federal government records containing an individual's personal information. It also gives individuals the right to:

  • Review records about themselves.
  • Find out if these records have been disclosed.
  • Request corrections or amendments of these records.

Due to the Privacy Act, the United States Postal Service® does not sell or provide any mailing list information.

USPS Privacy Policy ›

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What is the Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that was created in 1966 to provide the public a right of access to government documents and records, the premise being that the public has a right to know what the government is doing. The Act applies to federal agencies within the executive branch of the government, which includes the Postal Service. It says that any person may ask an agency for a copy of its records, and that the agency must provide such records, unless an exemption exists that protects the records from disclosure. Back to Top ›

How do I make a FOIA request?
A request for agency documents and records pursuant to the FOIA must be in writing and identified as a "Freedom of Information Act" request. The Act requires a requester to provide a reasonable description of the documents or records sought. A reasonable description is one that allows agency employees familiar with the subject matter to locate responsive records with a reasonable amount of effort. Be aware that the Postal Service has about 40,000 facilities at which records are maintained and a centralized index of every record does not exist. Requests that do not meet the reasonable description standard include requests for all records within a broad category, such as requests for "all records the Postal Service has about me," "all records concerning my mail," and "all records relating to the delivery of mail to prisoners." If your request does not contain a reasonable description, we will write back to you requesting clarification. A precise description of the records you want will ensure responsible use of postal resources to satisfy your right of access while minimizing any processing costs to you. Back to Top ›

Is a person required to provide a reason for requesting agency records?
The FOIA does not require a requester to give a reason for requesting agency records. Back to Top ›

What does a FOIA request cost?
A requester may be charged a fee for some or all of the Postal Service's direct costs. Fees are based on the amount of time it takes to process a request, the number of pages provided, and a requester's fee category (educational, news media, commercial, or other).

  • Educational and news media requesters are charged for duplication costs in excess of 100 pages.
  • Commercial requesters are charged fees for search time, review time, and duplication costs.
  • Other requesters are charged fees for search time in excess of two hours and duplication costs in excess of 100 pages.

Duplication costs are 15 cents per page. Search and review time is $32 per hour. Direct costs are assessed for information that must be retrieved by computer. If the assessable cost is $10.00 or less, we do not charge a fee. If the fee exceeds $25 and you did not indicate willingness to accept all costs, the Postal Service will notify you of the estimated fee and ask for your written agreement to accept liability. If the estimated fee is over $250, our regulations allow us to collect an amount up to the full estimated cost before processing the request. Back to Top ›

Can a FOIA request fee be waived?
Any requester may ask for a fee waiver. The eligibility of a requester for a fee waiver will vary, depending on the ability to show how the requested information relates to the operations or activities of the government and the means to convey the information to the public. For example, a news media requester may qualify for a fee waiver. In that case, the Postal Service may waive in full or in part the chargeable duplication fee. Indigence is not sufficient to qualify for a fee waiver. Back to Top ›

Where do I submit my FOIA request?
Send your request to the custodian of the records. The custodian is the head of the postal facility where the record is maintained. In most instances, it will be a postmaster. At Headquarters, it is the vice president of the functional area relating to the subject of the request. For example, a request for investigative records maintained by the Postal Inspection Service would be directed to:

US POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE
OFFICE OF COUNSEL
475 L'ENFANT PLAZA SW RM 3521
WASHINGTON DC 20260-3521

A request for investigative records maintained by the Postal Service Inspector General would be directed to:

US POSTAL SERVICE OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
1735 N LYNN ST STE 10000
ARLINGTON VA 22209-2020

If you do not know who the custodian is, submit your request to Headquarters as follows and your request will be directed to the appropriate custodian:

MANAGER RECORDS OFFICE
US POSTAL SERVICE
475 L'ENFANT PLAZA SW RM 4541
WASHINGTON DC 20260-2201

Alternatively, requests may be faxed to the Manager, Records Office at (202) 268-5353. Back to Top ›

When can I expect a response from my FOIA request?
The FOIA provides that the Postal Service record custodian will respond in writing within 20 working days of receipt of a request. The Requester Service Center has 10 working days in which to refer the request to the custodian of records. If a request is sent to the wrong facility, the time for response does not begin until the request is received by the custodian of the records. There are unusual circumstances in which the agency may extend the response period for another ten working days. These include requests that require a search for records from a facility other than the one processing the request, requests that require the search for and review of a large volume of records, and requests that require consultation with another agency or with other agency components having an interest in disclosure. Back to Top ›

Under what circumstances may I receive expedited processing for a FOIA request
A FOIA request will receive expedited processing under two conditions only. In one instance, the requester must demonstrate that the failure to expeditiously obtain the records could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual. In the other instance, the requester must demonstrate that he or she is primarily engaged in disseminating information to the public and that the requested information is urgently needed to inform the public about actual or alleged government activity. Back to Top ›

Under what circumstances may records be withheld from a FOIA request?
The FOIA requires the release of any requested agency record unless it is protected from disclosure by an exemption in the Act. It is the policy of the Postal Service to make its official records available to the public to the maximum extent consistent with the public interest. If records or parts of records are withheld, you have a right to appeal the denial of your request by writing to the Postal Service's General Counsel within 30 days of the date of the denial letter. The letter of appeal should include statements concerning the denial, the reasons why it is believed to be erroneous, and the relief sought, along with copies of the original request, the denial letter, and any other related correspondence. Submit the appeal letter to:

GENERAL COUNSEL
US POSTAL SERVICE
475 L'ENFANT PLAZA SW RM 6004
WASHINGTON DC 20260-1100

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What is the form that a PROCESS SERVER needs to file to Request Change of Address or Boxholder Information?
The Postal Service suggests the Change of Address or Boxholder Request Format - Process Servers (letterhead optional) be used in conjunction with regulations at 39 CFR 265.6(d)(5)(ii) by persons empowered by law to serve legal process when requesting change of address or boxholder information. Back to Top ›

What is the format that a GOVERNMENT AGENCY uses to file to request Change of Address or Boxholder Information?
Agencies must use the Address Information Request Format - Government Agencies in accordance with regulations at 39 CFR 265.6(d)(5)(i) & 265.6(d)(7) when requesting address verification. If the request lacks any of the required information or a proper signature, the custodian must return the request to the agency specifying the deficiency in the space marked "other". Back to Top ›

Does the US Postal Service provide a mailing list with its Change of Address (COA) database?
The Postal Service does not provide mailing lists since it does not have a database giving the current address of all its customers. It doesn't need that information since it delivers to addresses, rather than individuals. However, if a customer moves and submits a change of address order, that information is kept at the post office serving the last known address for a period of 18 months. Policy for the disclosure of customer name and address information is contained at section 265.6(d) of our regulations (39 CFR 265), which can be accessed from the FOIA home page.

Change of address information about individuals or families is available only to mailers if they already possess your old address, to government agency requesters, to persons needing the information to serve legal process who meet certain requirements, or pursuant to a court order. Back to Top ›

I am trying to find the address of a friend. Can you help or provide the Change of Address (COA) information?
The Postal Service does not maintain address lists of individuals or organizations and does not supply the COA information of individuals who have moved. However, address information is provided 1) in response to specific written requests from process servers when needed for the service of legal documents, and 2) to federal, state, and local government and law enforcement agencies for official purposes or in response to court orders. Address information for individuals under court-ordered protection is provided only in response to a court order. There is no charge for this service. Back to Top ›

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