Freedom of information

Freedom of information laws allow access by the general public to data held by national governments.

Making a freedom of information request

If you make a request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) for access to documents, it must:

  • be in writing
  • provide a physical or electronic address where we can send our decision
  • provide enough information for us to identify the documents
  • state that the request is under the FOI Act.

You can download Form 424A Request for access to documents of information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to help you to make a valid request. If you are requesting your personal information, to assist us to protect your privacy, please include photographic identification with your request.​

After you lodge your application, we will acknowledge it within 14 calendar days. We are required to give you our decision about your request and the reasons for that decision within 30 days of its receipt.

If we have to consult with anyone else, we have a further 30 days to tell you of our decision.
Example: If you ask for a document which contains information about a third party.

If for any other reason we are likely to need more than 30 days to complete your request we will contact you to arrange an extension of time for processing of your request in line with the requirements under the FOI Act. We might also apply to the Australian Information Commissioner for an extension of the processing time where exceptional circumstances would prevent us from processing your request in 30 days. You will be informed in writing if the processing time has been extended.

If we do not meet these 30 day time limits, you can apply to the Australian Information Commissioner to review our decision on the basis that we are deemed to have refused your request.

The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives you a general right of access to information held by us and other Commonwealth agencies (departments and authorities).

Under the FOI Act you have a legal right (subject to some exceptions) to see documents we hold and get copies of those documents. You can also see most manuals, rules and guidelines that we use to make decisions about the legislation we administer such as the Migration Act 1958 and the Australian Citizenship Act 2004.

We might refuse to give you access to documents because they are exempt documents.
Example: Where disclosure could reasonably be expected to prejudice an ongoing investigation or if it contains information about another individual.

Charges

We might decide to impose charges in relation to processing a request. All charges are set by FOI regulations. Once we have notified you, the time for processing a request is suspended until you agree to pay the charges or we agree to vary the charges. If we decide to impose a charge, you can contend that the charge has been wrongly assessed, or should be reduced or not imposed.

No charge is payable on a document which contains your own personal information (but could be payable if your request extends to documents which contain information other than your personal information).

If we exceed the processing time (processing time is taken to include any extensions of time under the FOI Act) we cannot charge for access and any charges collected for that request will be refunded.

An applicant who is a journalist or is acting on behalf of a non-profit organisation cannot be charged for the first five hours of processing.

If charges are imposed and you want to dispute the charges, you should contact us as soon as possible with reasons why you consider the charges should not be paid.

A decision to impose a charge and notification to you must be made within 30 days of the receipt of your request.

Why you might be refused access

We might refuse to give you access to documents under the FOI Act because they are exempt documents. Exempt documents include those where disclosure of the documents or the information in them:

  • could reasonably be expected to prejudice an investigation
  • could reasonably be expected to prejudice the proper administration of the law or the proper efficient conduct of our operations
  • would involve the unreasonable disclosure of personal information of another person or constitute a breach in confidence
  • is prohibited under other legislation, for example, under the Migration Act secrecy provisions
  • is subject to legal professional privilege
  • is contrary to the public interest, and they are internal working documents.

We have established procedures to help us make fair and consistent decisions about requests for information under the FOI Act. If you are refused access to documents, you can have the decision reviewed.

Sometimes we might give you a document with the exempt material deleted. You will be provided with the reasons for the exemption and your review rights.

Freedom of information disclosures



Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), which commenced on 1 November 2010, require agencies to publish information in a disclosure log within ten working days after the freedom of information (FOI) applicant was 'given access' to a document.

​Disclosure logs

We update our disclosure log every Friday afternoon. The log covers requests where access has been granted for the seven days ending on the previous Tuesday (that is Wednesday to Tuesday).

Our list is not exhaustive – it does not include the following:

  • documents of a personal or commercially valuable nature released under FOI
  • documents to which access has been refused or which are exempt from release under FOI
  • documents which have been released to the media or members of the public outside the FOI framework.

This measure will enable interested parties to quickly and easily obtain access to material which has already been disclosed under the FOI Act.

The list below provides a general description of documents disclosed (with redactions) under the FOI Act.

Obtaining copies of the documents

You can request copies of the documents in the disclosure logs by email.
Email: foi@immi.gov.au

Publications, research and statistics

In addition to our requirements under the FOI Act, we have a range of publications and research relating to various aspects of the department and services that we provide on this website.

Reviews into the processing of freedom of information requests

Information Commissioner own motion investigation

Our Information Commissioner undertook an Own Motion Investigation (OM12/00001) in 2012.

The Information Commissioner has not identified concerns with our processing of routine freedom of information (FOI) requests, noting that we complied with the time limits specified in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) in processing 88 per cent of personal information requests in 2010-11.

A copy of the Information Commissioner’s Own Motion Investigation and our response is available online at the Information Commissioner's website.

Independent comparative review

In 2012 we requested that Mr Robert Cornall AO undertake an Independent Comparative Review of our FOI procedures

The Review was commissioned to:

  • consider existing processes and procedures which our FOI team in the National Office, Canberra, has in place to process complex, high-profile and sensitive FOI cases
  • identify the processes and procedures which other APS agencies in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney have in place to ensure complex, high-profile and sensitive FOI cases are processed in a timely manner
  • identify comparative best FOI practices which could be adopted by the FOI team in the National Office, Canberra
  • consider the appropriate levels of officers who are allocated and are the decision makers for complex, high-profile and sensitive cases.

The report concluded that the FOI team’s established processes and procedures are not the principal, or even the significant, cause of our poor FOI performance. It concluded that a major contributing factor is the lack of a whole of department approach to effective FOI management.

The review made a number of recommendations. These were endorsed by the department's Executive Committee on 17 September 2012. Attached is a copy of the report with individual case details removed.

Management initiated review

In 2011 we requested Ernst & Young to undertake a Management Initiated Review of Freedom of Information in the department. The objective of this review was to determine ways to improve the efficiency of processing requests for access to documents and amendments to personal information and to ultimately reduce the number of FOI requests that we receive.

The review made a number of recommendations that we are currently working through in conjuncture with the recommendations from the Own Motion Investigation and the Independent Comparative Review.

Disclaimer from Ernst & Young: Ernst & Young is a registered trademark. Our report more be relied upon by Department of Immigration and Citizenship for the purpose of only pursuant to the terms of our engagement letter dated 10 June 2011. We disclaim all responsibility to any other party for any loss or liability that the other party may suffer or incur arising from or relating to or in any way connected with the contents of our report, the provision of our report to the other party or the reliance upon our report by the other party. These services are advisory in nature and thus do not constitute an audit, a review or an engagement to perform agreed-upon procedures in accordance with the Australian Auditing Standards. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Note: This report purports to describe the practices of Centrelink and the Child Support Agency in processing requests under the Freedom of Information Act. However some of this material is inaccurate, incomplete or out of date. Centrelink and the Child Support Agency are part of the Department of Human Services. Up to date information on making a FOI request to the Department of Human Service is available on their website.

Freedom of information enquiries

Contact your nearest departmental office first if you want to obtain access to information on your file. You might be asked to complete an application form for access to the information or documents.

Freedom of information (FOI) requests should be submitted in writing and are currently processed in Melbourne, Sydney and National Office in Canberra.

Residents of Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia or the Northern Territory, send your FOI request to:

Postal address
Freedom of Information Melbourne
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
GPO Box 241
Melbourne Vic. 3001

Telephone: 131 881
Fax: 03 9235 3384
Email: foi.vic@immi.gov.au

Residents of New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, send your FOI request to:

Postal address
Freedom of Information and Subpoenas
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
GPO Box 9984
Sydney NSW 2001

Telephone: 131 881
Fax: 02 8861 4444
Email: foi.nsw@immi.gov.au

Residents outside Australia without an Australian address for delivery of documents, send your FOI request to:

Postal address
FOI & Privacy Policy Section
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
PO Box 25
Belconnen ACT 2616
Australia

Telephone: 131 881
Fax: 02 6264 1818
Email: foi@immi.gov.au

For residents outside Australia who have an Australian address for delivery of documents or are being represented by someone with an Australian address, please send your FOI requests to the appropriate office based on your or your representative's place of residence.

Last modified Wednesday 12 March 2014