USCIS FOIA Processing Guide May 2020


US-CIS recently released 170 pages of its May 19, 2020 FOIA Processing Guide. It is posted on the “FOIA” page of the Louise Trauma Center as “Processing Guide May 2020.”

Some excerpts:

There is a 4-page Table of Contents

FOIA Immigration Records System (FIRST)

Certification of Agreement (Consent) is consent by the Subject of the Record (SOR) to give information to another person [Page 7]

Verification of Identity (VOI) [Page 9]

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) [Page 9]

Minors: a minor can request their own record [Page 12]

Documents that Remove LPR/USC Status:

For example, Executed I-205 (Verification of Removal/Departure) [Page 15]

FOIA SAFE: some cases are “staffed to FOIA SAFE.” [Page 15]

Exemption (b)(3) protects items withheld by other statutes [Page 20]

Exemption (b)(5) has three parts: Deliberative Process Privilege; Attorney-Work Product Privilege, and Attorney-Client Privilege. [Page 20]

If disclosure would cause harm to deliberative process, we may withhold under (b)(5)

Three types of harm:

1] cast a chilling effect upon open, frank and honest discussion

2] cause premature disclosure of proposed policies before they are actually adopted

3] cause public confusion that might result from disclosure of reasons and rationales that were not in fact ultimately the grounds for an agency’s decision [Page 21]

This does not apply “to notes that are trivial in nature, state facts, or were produced 25 years or more before the request.” [Page 21]

Exemption (b)(6) protects information relating to personal privacy [Page 22]

Exemption (b)(7) protects records compiled for law enforcement purposes [Page 22]

(b)(7) (C) protects personal privacy [Page 22]

(b)(7)(E) protects “techniques and procedures” and “guidelines” if disclosure “could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.” [Page 22]

Privacy Act Exemptions (5 U.S.C. section 552A)

“The purpose of the PA is primarily to protect an individual’s privacy.” [Page 24]

Exemption (d)(5) permits withholding, if it was “compiled in reasonable anticipation of a civil action or proceeding…” [Page 24]


Automated Targeting System (ATS) [Page 25]

Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program [CARRP) [Page 26]

Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) [Page 30]

Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) [page 31]

Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) [Page 31]

IDENT System includes fingerprints, photographs, and biographical data [Page 32]

Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) [Page 34]

Reasonably Segregable

-if “non-exempt material is inextricably intertwined with the exempt material and the only information being released are words and/or phrases that do not make sense,” then it can be withheld [Page 38)

Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) contains information about “known violators” and “wanted persons.” [Page 40]

Terrorism-Related Inadmissibility Grounds (TRIG): the box on Page 41 is completely blank

Track 1 Document Substitution Table [page 44]


-does USCIS have an agreement to process the documents from the agency? [Page 46]

USCIS has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Bureau of Prisons [Page 47]

USCIS has a MOU with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) [Page 48]

Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) [Page 49]

RAP Sheets: may include information from the National Crime Information Center

(NCIC) and the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File [page 51]

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): page 52 contains cross-outs made by a purple pen

Page 53 has a big “X” through it

Department of State (DOS): USCIS has a MOU with the DOS [Page 54]

Page 56 mentions:

United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT)

Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM)

Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS)

Case Notes: “are a vital tool where you will note details and facts about a case.” [Page 58]. “Once a Case Note has been replied to, the original note cannot be edited.” [Page 58]

“Bookmarks” are discussed on page 59, but the word is not defined.


“If you are having FIRST problems...Attach sanitized screenprints is applicable.” [Page 61


“If you have a policy and/or processing inquiry…contact a member of the Knowledge Management Group…” [Pages 61-62]

Appendices and Acronyms begin at page 63; some examples:

AFR = APIS Final Rule

ALB = Asian Long-horned Beetle

CAIR = Council on American-Islamic Relations

CPMS = Customer Profile Management System

FARES = Fees and Applications Receipt and Entry System

HSOC = Homeland Security Operations Center

JABS = Joint Automated Booking Stations

NACS = Naturalization Application Casework System

PAU = Passenger Analysis Unit [part of DHS]

RAFACS = Receipt and Alien File Accountability and Control System

TAC = Third Agency Checks

WIF = Withhold in full


WC = Watch Commander

TOS = Training Operations Supervisor

PRIDE = Port Radiation Inspection, Detection & Evaluation


SIEA = Supervisory Immigration Enforcement Agent

ENFORCE = Enforcement Case Tracking System

DACS = Deportable Alien Control System

BMIS = ICE’s Bond Management Information System

CLASS OF ADMISSION CODES: begin at page 90:

Several pages of confusing letters and numbers

Policy manual, Adjustment of Status: [page 97]

PROCESSING TABLES begin at page 100:

I-94 “Release in full if belongs to the subject”

Assessment to Refer, Grant, Terminate: “Redact the deliberative information”

Asylum Interview Notes: “Review for deliberative material”

Credible Fear Determination Checklist: “withhold in full”

IBIS Inquiry: “Redact the IBIS results”

NFTS/RAILS: “Redact LE Office names”

Third Country Transit Bar Worksheet: “Review for any deliberative notes”

Communications Records checks: “Redact CBP officer names and identifiers”

NCIC Query Results: “withhold in full if third party

Secondary Referral Tracking Sheet/PLOR Worksheet: “Redact LE officer names, star numbers and initials”


The title of the first document is blank. The processor is told to withhold in full

Titles to more documents on page 127 are blank. “withhold in full”

Refugee Application Assessment: “Redact overseas Asylum/Refugee Officer names”

Form I-566 (Interagency Record of Request): “If one of the boxes is checked and/or a recommendation is listed. Redact (b)(3)” [Page 131]

FBI DOCUMENTS begin at page 132:

RAP Sheet: “Redact search results (b)(7) (E) to include… [blanked out]

FBI Response Descriptors: “Redact [blanked out] …”

TECS DOCUMENTS begin at page 140:

TECS II Address Query: “Release if this page is about the subject”

TECS II NCIC/NLETS Record Display: “Release if this page is about the subject”

Beginning at page 142, are large blanked out boxes. “Border Patrol-Buffalo Sector”

Many large blanked out boxes appear on pages 143-161

FOIA E-mail Addresses: blanked out on page 162

CPMS. IDENT, and US-Visit Codes to Redact is the title on page 163, but 95% of the page is blank.

Very large blanked out boxes are on pages 164-170

About The Author

David L. Cleveland, a lawyer in Washington, DC, is at

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