OIP Guidance

Implementation Checklist and Sample Language for OIP Guidance on New Requirements for FOIA Response Letters and Notices Extending the FOIA’s Time Limits Due to Unusual Circumstances

Agency Response Letters

Summary of Requirements:  When conveying the agency’s determination on the request to the requester, (i.e., when sending a response letter), agencies are required to:

  • Convey the determination and the reasons for it, and
  • New:  Notify the requester of the availability of the agency’s FOIA Public Liaison, and
  • If the determination is adverse, agencies must provide appeal rights
    • New:  allow no less than 90 days from the date of the determination to file the appeal, and
    • New:  provide notice of the right of the requester to seek dispute resolution services from the FOIA Public Liaison or from OGIS.
  • Agencies may elect to also provide notice of their FOIA Requester Service Center, which is the initial point of contact for requesters with questions about the handling of their requests. Similarly agencies may offer the FOIA professional who handled the request as a contact for any further questions.

Sample Language for New Requirements in Response Letters:

For determinations that are not adverse (i.e., full grants):

I trust that this information fully satisfies your request.  If you need any further assistance or would like to discuss any aspect of your request please do not hesitate to contact  [optional:  the analyst who processed your request at ----, or our FOIA Requester Service Center at ----, or] our FOIA Public Liaison, [name], at ----.

For Adverse determinations:   

You may contact [optional:  the analyst who processed your request and/or the FOIA Requester Service Center, as well as] our FOIA Public Liaison, [name], for any further assistance and to discuss any aspect of your request at:

[Mailing address]
[Telephone number]
[Email address]
[Fax number, if applicable]  

Additionally, you may contact the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration to inquire about the FOIA mediation services they offer.  The contact information for OGIS is as follows: Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road-OGIS, College Park, Maryland 20740-6001, e-mail at ogis@nara.gov; telephone at 202-741-5770; toll free at 1-877-684-6448; or facsimile at 202-741-5769.

If you are not satisfied with [insert your agency]'s determination in response to this request, you may administratively appeal by writing to [insert your agency contact information].  Your appeal must be postmarked or electronically transmitted within 90 days of the date of the response to your request.

Notices Extending the FOIA’s Time Limits due to Unusual Circumstances

Summary of requirements:  When agencies encounter “unusual circumstances” as defined in the FOIA and seek to extend the FOIA’s time period beyond ten additional working days, the FOIA requires that the agency provide written notice to the requester and that the following information be included in that notification: 

  • An opportunity to limit the scope of their request so that it may be processed with the time limit or an opportunity to arrange with the agency an alternative time frame for processing the request,
  • An offer to make available the agency's FOIA Public Liaison to aid the requester, and
  • New: Notification of the requester’s right to seek dispute resolution services from OGIS.
  • Agencies may also elect to offerthe FOIA professional who is handling the request as a resource to assist the requester.

Sample language for New Requirement to Include OGIS Contact Information in Notifications of Extension of Time due to Unusual Circumstances

After explaining what the “unusual circumstances” are and providing the requester with an opportunity to narrow his/her request or to arrange an alternative time for processing:

If you have any questions or wish to discuss reformulation or an alternative time frame for the processing of your request, you may contact [optional:  the analyst handling your request at ---, or] our FOIA Public Liaison, [name], for any further assistance and to discuss any aspect of your request at:

[Mailing address]
[Telephone number]
[Email address]
[Fax number, if applicable]  

Additionally, you may contact the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration to inquire about the FOIA mediation services they offer.  The contact information for OGIS is as follows: Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road-OGIS, College Park, Maryland 20740-6001; e-mail at ogis@nara.gov; telephone at 202-741-5770; toll free at 1-877-684-6448; or facsimile at 202-741-5769.

Updated August 10, 2017