The Federal Archives Act (Bundesarchivgesetz, BArchG) determines terms of protection for archival material in $ 11. The general term of protection for federal archive material is 30 years after its creation. However, conformable to $ 12 it is possible to apply for a shortening of the terms of protection. Thereupon, the 30-year period may be shortened, unless there are grounds for refusal (see BArchG § 13).
You can find the text of the BArchG here. An English version of the law for information purposes can be found at the webpage of the National Archives (Bundesarchiv)..
You can submit the request by yourself informally by e-mail. The application must contain a list of the files for which you wish to reduce the term of protection. In addition to the reference code of the files (Bestellsignaturen), you should list each file’s alphanumeric code (Aktenzeichen), title and time range (Laufzeit). Your will receive a sample table for the file list from the archivist responsible for you. Furthermore, you will need to justify separately as to why the inspection of these files is necessary for your research. The justification should be concise (not an exposé of your work), but compelling and related to the specific files.
You can’t research for files within the retention period online in the Invenio database. For a corresponding search, upon request, the archivist in charge will unlock the relevant holdings. Then the database available on the computers in the reading room will also show you the files that are still protected. Alternatively, you can view the analogue finding aids (inventories of the responsible department) upon request in the reading room. In this way, you can determine the files for which you want to apply for a reduction of protection.
The content-related examination of your application is not the responsibility of the Political Archive but always of the department in the Federal Foreign Office responsible for the subject matter and may take some time.
In any case, only documents originating from the Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad can be made accessible. The length of the processing time also depends on the number of files that the responsible department has to check.