FOIA Processing Fees and Fee Waivers


The FOIA allows agencies to charge requesters for FOIA search, review, copying, and other special services such as courier deliveries. USAID's fees practices are governed by the FOIA and by the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Uniform Freedom of Information Act Fee Schedule and Guidelines.

There are four government-wide requester categories: Commercial Use Requesters; Educational and Non-Commercial Scientific Institution Requesters; Representatives of the News Media; and All Other Requesters.

If the potential costs of processing a request is of great concern to you, you may ask for a cost estimate. USAID's FOIA staff will attempt to let you know roughly what your fees will be before they process your request. However, it is often difficult to estimate the costs until a search for the requested documents is actually accomplished.

USAID's Service Fees are as follows:

(1) Commercial Use:

Search: >$32.16 per hour
Search costs will be assessed even though no records may be found or even if, after review, there is no disclosure or records.
Review: $55.45 per hour
Duplication: 20¢ per page

(2) Educational & Non-Commercial Scientific Institutions

Search: No fee 
Review: No fee 
Duplication: 20¢ per page after the first 100 pages

(3) Representatives of the News Media

Search: No fee 
Review: No fee 
Duplication: 20¢ per page after the first 100 pages

(4) All Others

Search: Same as "Commercial Users" except the first two hours shall be furnished without charge. 
Review: No fee 
Duplication: 20¢ per page after the first 100 pages

USAID does not charge a processing fee if the total processing cost of a request is $14.99 or less.

Applicable Definitions

"SEARCH" includes all time spent looking for material that is responsive to a request, including page-by-page or line-by-line identification of material within documents. Line-by-line search will not be done when duplicating an entire document would prove the less expensive and quicker method of complying with a request.

"REVIEW" is the process of examining documents located in response to a commercial use request to determine whether any portion of any document located is permitted to be withheld. It also includes processing documents for disclosure, e.g., doing all that is necessary to redact those documents of exempt material and otherwise preparing them for release. Review fees do not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions.

"DUPLICATION" is the process of making a copy of a document available to the FOIA requester. Copies can take the form of paper copy, microfilm or audiovisual materials (among others) and will be in a form that is reasonably usable by requesters.

"COMMERCIAL USE REQUEST" refers to a request from or on behalf of one who seeks information for a use or purpose that is related to commerce, trade, or the profit interest of the requester or of the person on whose behalf the request is made. In determining whether a request properly belongs in this category, the Agency will determine the use to which a requester will put the documents requested. Where the Agency has reasonable cause to doubt the use to which a requester will put the records sought, or where that use is not clear from the request itself, the Agency may seek additional clarification before assigning the request to a specific category.

"EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION" refers to a preschool, a public or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of undergraduate or graduate higher education, an institution of professional education, or an institution of vocational education which operates a program or programs of scholarly research. A student who makes a request in furtherance of the completion of a course of instruction in carrying out an individual research goal does not qualify as an EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION requester.*

"NON-COMMERCIAL SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTION" refers to an institution that is not operated on a "commercial" basis as that term is referenced in the above definition for COMMERCIAL USE REQUEST above and which is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research, the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry.*

* To be eligible for inclusion, requesters must show that the request is being made as authorized by and under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use, but are sought in furtherance of scholarly (if the request is from an educational institution) or scientific (if the requests is from a non-commercial scientific institution) research.

"REPRESENTATIVE OF THE NEWS MEDIA" refers to a person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. The term "news" means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news media entities include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large, and publishers of periodicals (but only in those instances when they can qualify as disseminators of "news" who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public). These examples are not intended to be all-inclusive. Moreover, as traditional methods of news delivery evolve (e.g. electronic dissemination of newspapers through telecommunication services), such alternative media would be included in this category. In the case of "freelance" journalists, they may be regarded as working for a news organization if they can demonstrate a sound basis for expecting publication through such an organization, even though not actually employed by it. A publication contract would be the clearest evidence, but the Agency may also look to the past publication record of the requester in making this determination.

"ALL OTHERS" refers to requesters that do not fit into any of the other requester categories.

Important Payment Practices

PAYMENTS: (a) Payments will be in U.S. Dollars in the form of either a check or bank draft drawn on a bank in the United States or a money order. (b) The check or money order should be made payable to the order of the U.S. Treasury and mailed to the Chief, Information and Records Division, U.S. Agency for International Development, Room 2.7C, Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C. 20523-2701

ADVANCE PAYMENT OR CONFIRMATION: When USAID estimates or determines that allowable charges to a requester are likely to exceed $250.00, USAID will require a requester to make an advance payment of the entire estimated charges before continuing to process the request. Where the estimated charges are in the $25.00 to $250.00 range, then USAID in its discretion, before processing the request, may require either (a) an advance deposit of the entire estimated charges or (b) written confirmation of the requester's willingness, when billed, to pay such charges.

AGGREGATING REQUESTERS: When USAID reasonably believes that a requester or group of requesters is attempting to break a request down into a series of requests for the purpose of evading the assessment of fees, the Agency will aggregate any such requesters and charge accordingly.

NONPAYMENT OF FEES: USAID will begin assessing interest charges on the thirty- first day following the day on which the requester is advised of the fee charge. Interest will be at the rate prescribed in 31 U.S.C. 3717.

Where a requester has previously failed to pay a fee charged in a timely fashion (i.e. within thirty days of the billing date), USAID will require the requester to pay the full amount owed plus any applicable interest as provided above, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the remaining estimated fee before USAID begins to process a new request or continues processing a then-pending request from the requester. The administrative response time limits prescribed in subsection (a)(6) of the FOIA will begin only after the Agency has received fee payments described in this section.

EFFECT OF THE DEBT COLLECTION ACT OF 1982 (PUB. L.97-365): USAID will use the authorities the Debt Collection Act, including disclosure to consumer reporting agencies and use of collection agencies, where appropriate, to encourage repayment.

Waiving or Reduction Fees

In accordance with section (4)(A)(iii) of the FOIA, USAID will furnish documents without charge or at a reduced charge if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the Government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

You should make your request for a waiver or reduced fees at the same time you make your initial request for records. If your waiver or fee reduction request is not granted, the waiver/fee reduction denial letter sent to you will designate an appeal officer.

In determining whether a waiver or reduction should be granted because the release will be in the public interest, USAID takes many factors into consideration:

Note: An important factor taken into consideration is the requester's identity and qualifications -- e.g., expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to disseminate the information to the general public is evaluation.

  1. Whether the subject matter of the request specifically concerns identifiable operations or activities of the government.
  2. Whether the release of the disclosable portions of the requested records will be informative regarding the particular government activities or operations that are connected to the subject matter of the request.
  3. Whether the requested information is already in the public domain, either in a duplicative or a substantially identical form.
  4. Whether the disclosure will contribute to the understanding of the public at large, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester or a narrow segment of interested persons.
  5. Whether an identifiable contribution to public understanding of government operations or activities will be a "significant" one, i.e., such that the general public's understanding of the subject matter in question will likely be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent.

Once the public interest requirement for a waiver or fee reduction has been met, then a determination of whether disclosure of the requested information is primarily in the commercial interest of the request is made. If it is determined that there is a commercial interest, a waiver or fee reduction is granted when the public interest in disclosure is greater in magnitude than the requester's commercial interest.