U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced the launch of its “Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Immigration Records SysTem (FIRST),” which the agency said “will eventually allow users to submit, manage, and receive FOIA requests entirely online.” Before this change, USCIS only accepted FOIA requests by mail, fax, and email, and requestors typically received their documents on a CD by mail.
USCIS is rolling out FIRST’s digital delivery of services in phases. Initially, requestors who have an immigration court date pending and file a request for documents can create an account within myUSCIS to receive documents digitally. Through their accounts, requestors can track the status of their FOIA cases and will receive an email notification when USCIS has uploaded their records. In the coming months, USCIS said, this digital delivery option will be expanded to all FOIA and Privacy Act (PA) requestors. When FIRST is fully operational, requestors will be able to use a completely digital FOIA/PA system, from online submission to retrieving and downloading responsive documents. USCIS will notify the public as additional services become available.
USCIS said that FIRST is part of the agency’s “ongoing effort to move the nation’s legal immigration system away from paper-based services to digital transactions.”