Section 4.23 – Procedures for making inquiries.

(a) Any individual, regardless of age, who is a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence into the United States may submit an inquiry to the Department. The inquiry should be made either in person or by mail addressed to the appropriate component identified in Appendix A to this part or to the official identified in the notification procedures paragraph of the systems of records notice published in the Federal Register. \2\ If an individual believes the Department maintains a record pertaining to him or her but does not know which system of records might contain such a record and/or which component of the Department maintains the system of records, assistance in person or by mail will be provided at the first address listed in Appendix A to this part.

2 The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is established as an agency of the United States within the Department of Commerce, operates under its own PA regulations at 37 CFR part 102, subpart B. Accordingly, requests concerning records maintained by the USPTO should be sent directly to the USPTO.

(b) Inquiries submitted by mail should include the words “PRIVACY ACT INQUIRY” in capital letters at the top of the letter and on the face of the envelope. If the inquiry is for general information regarding the Act and this subpart, no particular information is required. The Department reserves the right to require compliance with the identification procedures appearing at Sec. 4.24(d). If the inquiry is a request that the Department determine whether it has a record pertaining to the individual, the following information should be submitted:

  1. Name of individual whose record is sought;
  2. Statement that individual whose record is sought is either a U.S. citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence;
  3. Identifying data that will help locate the record (for example, maiden name, occupational license number, period or place ofemployment, etc.);
  4. Record sought, by description and by record system name, if known;
  5. Action requested (that is, sending information on how to exercise rights under the Act; determining whether requested record exists; gaining access to requested record; or obtaining copy of requested record);
  6. Copy of court guardianship order or minor's birth certificate, as provided in Sec. 4.24(d)(3), but only if requester is guardian or parent of individual whose record is sought;
  7. Requester's name (printed), signature, address, and (optional) telephone number;
  8. Date; and,
  9. Certification of request by notary or other official, but only if:
    • (i) Request is for notification that requested record exists, for access to requested record, or for copy of requested record;
    • (ii) Record is not available to any person under 5 U.S.C. 552; and
    • (iii) Requester does not appear before an employee of the Department for verification of identity.

(c) Any inquiry which is not addressed as specified in paragraph (a) of this section or which is not marked as specified in paragraph (b) of this section will be so addressed and marked by Department personnel and forwarded immediately to the responsible Privacy Officer. An inquiry which is not properly addressed by the individual will not be deemed to have been ``received'' for purposes of measuring the time period for response until actual receipt by the Privacy Officer. In each instance when an inquiry so forwarded is received, the Privacy Officer shall notify the individual that his or her inquiry was improperly addressed and the date the inquiry was received at the proper address.

(d)(1) Each inquiry received shall be acted upon promptly by the responsible Privacy Officer. Every effort will be made to respond within ten working days (i.e., excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal public holidays) of the date of receipt at the proper address. If a response cannot be made within ten working days, the Privacy Officer shall send an acknowledgment during that period providing information on the status of the inquiry and asking for such further information as may be necessary to process the inquiry. The first correspondence sent by the Privacy Officer to the requester shall contain the Department's control number assigned to the request, as well as a statement that the requester should use that number in all future contacts with the Department. The Department shall use that control number in all subsequent correspondence.

(d)(2) If the Privacy Officer fails to send an acknowledgment within ten working days, as provided in paragraph (d)(1) of this section, requester may ask the Assistant General Counsel for Administration to take take corrective action. No failure of a Privacy Officer to send an acknowledgment shall confer administrative finality for purposes of judicial review.

(e) An individual shall not be required to state a reason for or otherwise justify his or her inquiry.

(f) Special note should be taken that certain agencies are responsible for publishing notices of systems of records having Government-wide application to other agencies, including the Department. The agencies known to be publishing these general notices and the types of records covered therein appear in Appendix C to this part. These general notices do not identify the Privacy Officers in the Department to whom inquiries should be presented or mailed. The provisions of this section, and particularly paragraph (a) of this section, should be followed in making inquiries with respect to such records. Such records in the Department are subject to the provisions of this part to the extent indicated in Appendix C to this part. The exemptions, if any, determined by the agency publishing a general notice shall be invoked and applied by the Department after consultation, as necessary, with that other agency.