Sample letters: Applying for access

Under the Federal Act on Freedom of Information in the Administration (Freedom of Information Act, FoIA) everybody has the right to access official documents of the federal administration. The law sets out in detail how to gain access to documents, and what the exceptions are. The following sample letters are provided by the FDPIC to make it easier for you make an application for access. However, you do not have to use these letters to make an application.

You can apply in person, by phoning or in writing (e-mail, fax or letter) and you do not have to give a reason for wanting to view documents. Access is only granted to official documents created since the FoIA entered into force, on 1 July 2006.

The application for access must be formulated in such a way that the authority concerned can identify the document requested. You must therefore provide as much information as possible about the document (e.g. date, title, reference number, time period, particular event, subject area, authority issuing document, authority receiving document, other authorities involved).

You can also contact the authority concerned in advance and ask for information about which documents are available. The authority may then ask you to specify the document(s) you require.

The authority concerned will normally respond to the request within 20 days. This period may be extended, in which case you will be notified.

Access to official documents normally incurs a fee. You will not be charged if the fees amount to less than CHF 100. If the fees are likely to be more than CHF 100, you will be informed of this and asked to confirm your application before it is processed.

This is what you should do:

  1. Save the sample letter you require on your computer.
  2. Provide all the necessary information, as indicated. You must give the information marked with an asterisk (*). The information provided will be used solely to process your application for access.
  3. Print out the letter, sign and send it by post, fax or e-mail to the federal office concerned. You will find a list of the federal offices under the following link:

You can also use the Federal Office of Justice’s sample application form:

https://www.edoeb.admin.ch/content/edoeb/en/home/principle-of-freedom-of-information/documentation---aid/specimen-forms/sample-letters--applying-for-access.html