Seal of the U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State: Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act

Records Management

The Department of State maintains records dealing with:
  • The formulation and execution of U.S. Foreign Policy
  • The administration and operations of the Department of State and U.S. Missions abroad
  • Applications from U.S. Citizens for U.S. Passports
  • Visa requests from non-citizens to enter the U.S.
  • Consular assistance given to U.S. Citizens abroad
  • Current and former employees of the Department of State

In general, permanent records 25 years and older, pre-1925 passport and pre-1940 visa records are property of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

For more information on the organization and responsibility of the Department of State, go to Department Organization.

Management of Department of State Records

As mandated by the Federal Records Act and reflected in 5 FAM 400, the Department must create and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions or operations of the Department and U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Missions abroad.

Department of State records are organized into three basic file series:
  1. Central Foreign Policy file – contains all telegrams sent or received by the Department of State and selected internal memoranda, written correspondence, diplomatic notes, congressional requests, memorandums of conversations and documents from other agencies.
  2. Post files – the records of U.S. Embassies, Consulates and other diplomatic missions abroad.
  3. Lot files – collections of records generated by offices in the Department of State.

Records Disposition Schedules

Records Disposition Schedules documents the major records series (including electronic records) related to the activities of each office, identifies temporary and permanent records, and provides mandatory instructions for the retention and disposition (retirement or destruction) of each records series based on their temporary or permanent status. All Records Disposition Schedules are approved by the Archivist of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration. (NARA)

View Records Disposition Schedules »

The Life of a Document

Learn more about the stages Department of State records pass through before they are destroyed or transferred to NARA.

For Record Schedules common to all government agencies, go to NARA's General Records Schedules

Learn about the Document Lifecycle »

Department of State Major Information Systems

The Office of Management and Budget defines major information systems as an information system that requires special management attention because of its importance to an agency mission; its high development, operating, or maintenance costs; or its significant role in the administration of agency programs, finances, property, or other resources.

Major Information Systems »

Records Management Policy & Procedures

For more information on Department of State records management policy and procedures, please go to our Foreign Affairs Manual, 5 FAM 400, and our Foreign Affairs Handbook, 5 FAH 4.

For more information on Department of State policy on classifying, declassifying, and safeguarding information, please go to our Foreign Affairs Manual, 12 FAM 500.

11-03-2017   Download Acrobat Reader