Unless a fee waiver is granted, your FOIA request will not be accepted for processing until you agree to pay all applicable fees or fees up to the estimated cost to process your request.

Fee assessments for other documents are determined by how the record will be used and how much effort is required to locate, review, and prepare a copy of the requested document for release, in whole or in part.

You may qualify for a reduced fee assessment if you indicate how the record will be used. However, you are not required to provide information about why you are requesting a record unless you request a fee waiver or object to paying fees under the fee category we used to calculate your fees.

If you believe that you should be granted a fee waiver, your request must include a detailed justification to support the fee waiver.

Depending on your previous payment record and the volume of records you request, you will be asked to (a) pay fees in advance of receiving records, (b) make incremental payments of estimated fees during the processing of your request, or (c) remit full payment after your case is processed. Outstanding balances that are not paid within 30 calendar days are considered overdue. Failure to pay processing fees can be the basis for our refusing to process future requests.

Fees by Category of Requestors

Commercial requester. Requesters who seek information for a use or purpose that furthers their commercial, trade, or profit interest are considered commercial requesters. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review and duplication incurred in processing their requests.

Educational institution. Preschools, public or private elementary or secondary schools, institutions of graduate higher education, institutions of undergraduate higher education, institutions of professional education, or institutions of vocational education operating programs of scholarly research qualify as educational institutions. When an educational institution can demonstrate that its request was made in furtherance of scholarly research rather than commercial use, only duplication fees are assessed. Further, the first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

Non-commercial scientific institution. A non-commercial scientific institution is operated solely for conducting scientific research, the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry and is not operated on a "commercial" basis. The institution must demonstrate that its request is being made as a qualifying institution and the records are not sought for commercial use, but in furtherance of scientific research. When a non-commercial scientific institution can demonstrate that its request was made in furtherance of scientific research rather than commercial use, only duplication fees are assessed. Further, the first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

News media requesters. A representative of the news media is a person actively gathering news for an entity organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. "News" means information about current events or 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, when qualifying as disseminators of "news," who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public. "Freelance" journalists may be considered as working for a news organization if they can demonstrate a basis for expecting publication by that organization, even if not an actual employee. Proof may be by publication contract. A requester's past publication record may also be considered in determining their status. Private libraries, private repositories of Government records, or middlemen such as information vendors or data brokers do not qualify as news media requesters. News media requesters only pay duplication fees. Further, the first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

All other requesters. Requesters who do not qualify in another category are considered other requesters. Examples are nonprofit organizations and persons having a personal interest in an accident or incident in which they were directly involved. Individuals who request commercial documents must demonstrate that the records are not sought for commercial use. Other requesters receive two hours search, all review, and the first 100 pages at no cost.

Determining FOIA Fees

Manual search time. Search time includes all time spent looking for requested documents, including a page-by-page or line-by-line identification of material in a document to determine if it, or portions thereof, are responsive to the request. Manual search fees are assessed at $12, $25, or $45 per hour, depending on the rate of pay of the individual actually conducting the search. The $25 rate usually applies, except for such routine requests as locating a contract when the requester supplies the contract number.

Computer search time. Computer search is based on the direct cost of the central processing unit, input-output devices, and memory capacity of the computer configuration. The cost of the computer operator/programmer's time in determining how to conduct and subsequently execute the search is charged at the rate of a manual search.

Review time. Review time refers to examining documents responsive to a FOIA request to determine whether one or more of the statutory exemptions permit withholding the document or portions thereof. It also includes processing the documents for disclosure, such as excising them for release. Review does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues on application of the exemptions. Review time is assessed at $12, $25, or $45 per hour, depending on the rate of pay of the individuals conducting the review. The $25 rate usually applies.

Duplication. Duplication refers to the process of making a copy of a document in response to a FOIA request. Every effort is made to ensure that the copy provided is in a reasonably usable form. If the best available copies are not usable, the master copy can be made available for review upon appointment. Paper office copies are 15 cents per page. Costs for other types of records are based on the actual cost of duplication, including the operator's time and cost of materials. Duplication fees are only assessed for pages actually released, in whole or in part.

Fee Waivers

Minimum fees. When the billable fees are under $15, they are normally waived.

FOIA requesters do not pay any indirect processing costs. Further, only commercial requesters are assessed all direct costs incurred in processing their requests. Qualified educational or non-commercial scientific institutions and news media requesters do not pay search and review fees and receive up to 100 pages before incurring fees. All other requesters receive two hours search fees, all review fees, and 100 pages of duplication at no cost. Billable costs under $15 are not normally assessed. Additional waivers are granted when disclosure "is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government." Fee waiver requests must include a justification addressing the following issues:

Subject of the request. Explain how the subject matter of the request involves issues which will significantly contribute to the public's understanding of Navy operations or activities.

Informative value of the information to be disclosed. Explain how disclosure of non-exempt portions of the requested document will provide new, meaningful information about Navy operations or activities to the public.

Contribution to public's understanding. Explain how disclosure will have the potential to inform the public rather than the requester or a small segment of interested persons. Demonstrate the capability to disclose information in a manner informative to the general public. Describe your qualifications, the nature of the research, the purpose of the requested information, and the intended means of dissemination.

Significance of the contribution to public understanding. Explain how disclosure of the requested document will be unique in contributing previously unknown facts, thereby enhancing public knowledge, and why disclosure will not basically duplicate what is already known by the general public.

Commercial interest. Explain why disclosure of the requested document is not primarily in your commercial interest.

Examples of insupportable fee waiver requests:

  • Requests for press clippings, magazine articles, or records forwarding a particular opinion or concern from a member of the public regarding a naval activity, as well as requests for documents to assist in plans to write a book, research a particular subject, doctoral dissertation work, or claims of indigence.
  • Requests for information already in the public domain or nearly identical information that would add no new meaningful information on Navy operations and activities.
  • Requests for information that would further the requester's commercial, trade, or profit interest such as requests from data brokers or others who compile government information for marketing purposes.

Link to Research Highlights

Sign Up for NRL News