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What is the FOI Act?
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives you a general right of access to information held by the department and other Commonwealth agencies (departments and authorities).
Access to documents
Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 you have a legal right
(subject to some exemptions) to see documents the department holds and get
copies of those documents. You can also see most manuals, rules and guidelines
that the department uses to make decisions about the legislation it administers
such as the Migration Act 1958 and the Australian Citizenship
We may 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.
See: Explaining and Reviewing Our Decisions
Making a request
If you make a request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 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; and
- state that the request is under the Freedom of Information
You may download Form 424A Request for access to documents or information
under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to assist you to make a valid
See: Form 424A Request for access to documents or information (170KB PDF file)
Note: If you are requesting your personal information, to assist
us to protect your privacy, please include photographic identification with
After you lodge your application, we will acknowledge it within 14 days. We are usually 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. The department may also apply to the Australian Information Commissioner to apply 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.
Why you may be refused access
We may 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 and efficient conduct of our operations
- would involve the unreasonable disclosure of personal information of another person or constitute a breach of 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 FOI. If you are refused access to documents, you can have the decision reviewed.
Sometimes we may give you a document with the exempt material deleted. You
will be provided with the reasons for the exemption and your review rights.
The department may decide to impose charges in relation to processing a
request. All charges are set by FOI regulations. Once a charge has been notified
to you, the time for processing a request is suspended until you agree to pay
the charges or we agree to vary the charges. If the department decides to impose
a charge, you may 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 may be payable if your request extends to documents which contain information other than your personal information)
- If the department exceeds the processing time (processing time is taken to
include any extensions of time under the FOI Act) the agency 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 charge for the first five hours of processing.
- If charges are imposed and you wish to dispute the charges, you should contact
us as soon as possible with reasons why 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.
Changing your personal information
You can ask us to change the personal information we hold about you if you think that the information:
- is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading and
- has been, is being, or is available to be used for an administrative purpose.
To request a change to your personal information, you may download application
form 424C Request
For Amendment Or Annotation To Personal Records Under The Freedom Of Information
Act 1982 from the department’s website. You do not have to pay
a fee for this request. Your request must be in writing and, as far as possible:
- give details of the document and the information you believe is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading
- give reasons why you are asking for the amendments; and
- provide an address (physical or electronic) for us to reply to.
Form 424C Request for amendment or annotation to personal records under the Freedom Of Information Act 1982 (97KB PDF file)
We will provide you with our decision and the reasons for that decision within
30 days of receiving your request. If we do not meet this deadline, you can
ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review our decision because
we are deemed to have refused your request.
If you are an Australian citizen seeking to change or correct your personal details such as your name or date of birth you must submit a Form 119 Application for evidence of Australian citizenship and lodge the form with the required fee at the nearest departmental office. Your application will be assessed under the provisions of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007.
This process will ensure that your Evidence of Australian Citizenship will match departmental records. If you seek amendment under FOI to information which would cause your Evidence of Australian Citizenship to be different to your departmental records, your request will be referred to Citizenship.
See: Change or Correction of Name or Date of Birth for Australian Citizens
Adding a note to your information
If we decide we will not change our information about you, you can ask us to add a note setting out:
- what information you are concerned about;
- whether you think the information is incomplete, incorrect, out of date
- your reasons for the claim; and
- any other information you think will correct this.
As long as your note is not considered to be irrelevant, defamatory or unnecessarily long, we will add it to our information about you. You can also apply directly for us to add to, rather than change, our information about you. Again, there is no fee for this.
If we refuse to change or add a note to your records, you can have this decision reviewed.
See: Explaining and Reviewing Our Decisions
Processing FOI requests
The department currently processes FOI requests in Melbourne, Sydney and National Office.
Instruments of Approved Arrangements under section 23 (Freedom of Information Act 1982) (264KB PDF file)
Privacy and Freedom of Information Enquiries