Many of the records held by The National Archives are already open to the public. There is no need to make a Freedom of Information request for these records.
If you want us to search for information contained in open records, you can ask us to do this for a fee.
If you want to see a closed record, you can submit a FOI request. We will review the record in consultation with the government department which transferred it to us. If you would like information from The National Archives’ own administrative records – the records of how we go about our business – you can make a request in exactly the same way.
If we hold the information, we will provide it to you, subject to any exemptions which may apply. We will not withhold information unless an exemption applies.
Who can make a request for information?
Anyone anywhere in the world can make an FOI request. You do not have to be a UK citizen or live in the UK.
How do I make a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act?
If you are submitting your request by post please include a description of the information you are looking for. Please remember to provide a contact name and address and remember that we will have a better chance of finding the information you seek if you include as much detail as possible.
You can also make an FOI request for a closed record when you are browsing Discovery, our online catalogue, by selecting the ‘Submit FOI request’ button to the right of the closed record description.
Could my request be refused?
We can withhold information under the FOI Act if it falls within one of a number of listed categories, known as exemptions. There are two types of exemption within the FOI Act. One protects certain categories of information, or example, we will not release information that would damage international relations or prejudice anyone’s health and safety. The other covers procedural exemptions, for example:
- A request could also be refused if it would cost too much to comply. The Freedom of Information Act allows us to limit the amount of work we do for an individual request for information through a cost limit. This cost limit allows us to refuse a request if it would cost more than £450 to find and provide the requested information. If your request goes over the cost limit, we will try to help you narrow it down.
- A request could also be refused if it is vexatious or repeated. The National Archives has produced guidance on how we will treat repeated or vexatious requests (PDF).
What happens if I don’t agree with your decision not to release information?
Anyone disappointed with the response to their enquiry has the right to ask us for an internal review and a further right of appeal to the Information Commissioner.
Charges and fees
We do not charge for deciding whether you can access closed records and information from The National Archives’ own administrative records.
Record copying fees
You can find more information about the fees we charge for copying open records on our Record copying pages. Alternatively, you can view the information at The National Archives in Kew, free of charge.
How long will it take?
Under the Freedom of Information Act, we have a duty to reply to your request and to provide the information, unless it is subject to an exemption, within 20 working days.
For closed records, we sometimes have to consult other government departments and the FOI Act allows us an extra 10 working days to do so. See the details of this extension.
If we decide that an exemption may apply, the process might take slightly longer. We will write to tell you if this is the case.
The FOI Centre has produced these visual guides to explain how we process FOI requests.
Closed records (PPT, 0.35Mb)
Corporate information (PPT, 0.37Mb)
What if I just want some general help using the archives?
If you are not sure what kind of information is available, or what information you would like to see, you may wish to learn a little about the archives first.
We have a lot of online research guidance to help you get started.