This page tells you how to make a Freedom of Information request to The National Archives.

When do I need to make a Freedom of Information request to The National Archives?

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 to see a closed record, you can submit a Freedom of Information request. We will review the record, in consultation with the government department which transferred it to us. If it is not subject to an exemption, the information will be released to you.

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.

How do I make a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act?

Write to us describing the information you are looking for and giving us a contact name and address. Remember that we will have a better chance of finding the information you seek if you include as much detail as possible.

You can write to our Enquiry Service, The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU or use our online contact form.

Is there any way you would refuse my request?

The Freedom of Information Act contains a number of exceptions, known as exemptions. For example, we will not release information that might damage international relations.

We will not withhold information unless an exemption applies.

A request can also be refused if:

  • it would cost too much to comply (corporate requests)
  • the request is vexatious or repeated

The National Archives has produced guidance on how we will treat repeated or vexatious requests.

Vexatious requests guide (PDF, 0.00Mb)

What if I don't agree with your decision not to release information?

Anyone disappointed with the response to their enquiry can appeal to the Information Commissioner. There is a further right of appeal to an Information Tribunal.

Do I have to pay?

Search fees

We will not charge for deciding whether you can access information in a closed record. However, we will charge if you want us to look in closed records to find out whether they contain the information you want.

When we receive your request, we will write back to you and tell you how much our search for the information will cost. The fee is based on the time we think it will take us to find the information.

When we receive your payment we will carry out the search and, if we find the information and can make it available, we will provide it to you.

Our own records

There is no charge for requests for information from The National Archives' own administrative records.

Copying fees

We will charge a separate fee for any copies of the information. 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.

In some cases, where 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. Download these documents below:

closed records (PPT, 0.35Mb)

corporate information (PPT, 0.37Mb)

Who can make a request for information?

Anyone anywhere in the world can make a Freedom of Information request. You do not have to be a UK citizen or to live in the UK.

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. 

Is there a limit to the amount of Freedom of Information research that will be done in response to my request?

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. If your request goes over the cost limit, we will try to help you narrow it down.

This page contains PDF, PPT files. See plug-ins and file formats for help in accessing these file types.