Q&A in Regard to Handling Information Requests from Federal and State Agents
Federal and state agents may seek information from campus offices regarding a range of matters. This Q&A is intended to share more information about the types of inquiries you may receive and how you should respond.
Important Contacts | UNC Police: 919.962.8100 | Office of University Counsel: 919.962.1219 | Office of the Dean of Students: 919.966.4042 | International Student and Scholar Services: 919.962.5661
Routine inquiries may occur for students and scholars studying and working in non-immigrant status, including H-1B temporary workers, that relate to routine immigration issues, including site visits for compliance. In most cases, routine inquiries should be directed to International Student and Scholar Services, where required records reside.
Occasionally, representatives from one of these agencies will go directly to a student, scholar, employee, or supervisor at the worksite location. Agents may request information about you or another party on campus. If you receive a visit such as this, contact UNC Police so that a UNC police officer can verify the credentials of the individual. Please also contact the Office of University Counsel for direction on responding to requests for information regarding students, faculty, or staff. Note that Section 505 of the USA Patriot Act carries a gag order prohibiting individuals and institutions from disclosing certain requests made by the FBI in the context of an investigation. The Office of University Counsel must be consulted for obtaining legal advice and assistance in complying with such requests.
There have been reports of scams and imposters posing as government or law enforcement officers. How can I verify that the person really is from a government agency?
What information should students, faculty, and staff know to prepare for an inquiry or visit from a government agency?
We recommend that students and scholars studying or working in non-immigrant status and DACA and undocumented students and employees seek the advice of an immigration attorney. Organizations such as the ACLU have developed tip sheets, like “Know Your Rights,” that provide general information and resources on what to do when encountering law enforcement. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center provides information and printable “red cards” for asserting Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. Visit https://www.ilrc.org/red-cards to print or order a card.
On campus, registered students may seek referrals to immigration attorneys from Carolina Student Legal Services http://studentlegalservices.web.unc.edu/ or from American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) http://www.ailalawyer.org/. International students and scholars may also consult with International Student and Scholar Services for assistance: 919.962.5661.
The University’s FERPA policy applies to the release of student information for all students. In accordance with this policy, you must contact the Office of University Counsel if you receive a subpoena, court order, or other request for student information. Health and safety emergencies requiring release of student information should be referred to the Office of the Dean of Students or the Office of University Counsel.
Note that for F-1 international students and J-1 Exchange Visitors, ICE may request certain information required by regulation at 8 C.F.R. § 214.3(g), and the University is required to release that information. Students and scholars sign a general release as part of their participation in the F-1 student program and J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. Requests for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) related information typically will come to the Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) or Designated School Officials (DSO) or Responsible and Alternate Responsible Officers (RO /ARO). The PDSO, DSOs and A/ROs with access to SEVIS are in International Student and Scholar Services. Typically, the P/DSOs and RO/AROs will ask for requests in writing from ICE and will consult with the Office of University Counsel regarding requests that exceed regulatory requirements
I’m a University employee. Please summarize the steps I should take to ensure that I am in compliance with the University’s policies in the event that a federal or state agent visits my place of work requesting information about someone other than myself.
While awaiting UNC Police, contact the Office of University Counsel at 919.962.1219 to seek guidance about any requested disclosure of any information regarding a student, faculty, or staff member.
You can share the following information with the agent: I appreciate that you are interested in obtaining some information from the University, and I am going to do my best to assist you. University policies and applicable law generally do not permit me to share information about our faculty, staff, or students with you. University protocol also requires that our campus police verify your credentials. I am happy to escort you to a place where you can wait for UNC Police. I will also call our Office of University Counsel for guidance on responding to your information request.
During a health or safety crisis, a government official may request information about a student and it may be necessary for the University to release certain information. Disclosure of a student’s personally identifiable information to appropriate parties, including the student’s parents, in connection with an emergency, if the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or others. The Office of the Dean of Students or the Office of University Counsel should be contacted for assistance in making and documenting the decision that a health or safety emergency exists, whenever possible. At a minimum, these offices should be contacted following the determination that there is a health and safety emergency and the disclosure of Personally Identifiable information.