History and Genealogy
Alien Registration Forms on Microfilm, 1940 - 1944
Alien Registration Forms ("AR-2s") document the presence of non-citizens in the United States during the Second World War. The Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") used the Form AR-2 to make a record of all aliens residing in or entering the country between August 1940 and March 31, 1944. Although stamped with an Alien Registration Number ("A-number"), AR-2s are a distinct records series and are not Alien Files ("A-Files").
The Alien Registration Program was a World War II-era national security measure ordered by the original Alien Registration Act of 1940. That 1940 Act directed INS to fingerprint and register every alien age 14 and older living or arriving in the United States. (This ambitious project was separate from “enemy alien registration;” the Alien Registration Program sought to make a registry all foreign nationals in the country, not just the citizens of enemy nations). For this purpose, INS introduced the Alien Registration Form AR-2, a form individually stamped with a unique personal identifier, the Alien Registration Number ("A-number").
The Alien Registration Program registered over 5.6 million aliens between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944, when the AR-2 records series closed. Alien Registration continued after April 1, 1944, but on different forms filed in a new series of individual records, Alien Files ("A-Files").
INS microfilmed the 5,665,983 AR-2s completed between August 1940 and March 1944. Most of the original AR-2s were subsequently destroyed. However, some original AR-2s ended up in A-Files opened under the same A-number when the subject immigrants had subsequent interactions with INS.
AR-2 Forms can document an individual’s presence in the United States during the early 1940s. The Alien Registration Program registered many resident aliens between 1940-1941 who had been living in the country for decades. Although AR-2s are not official arrival records, the AR-2 Form may be the agency’s only record of immigrants who arrived as early as the 1880's. For many others, the AR-2 Form may be their only other immigration record after their initial immigration arrival record.
Who Registered? - The 1940 Alien Registration Act required all aliens (non-US citizens) within and entering the United States to register. Furthermore, persons who were unsure of their citizenship status were required to register even it if was later determined they were a U.S. citizen. Data generated from the 1940 registration indicates the majority of registrants were born between 1875 and 1910. .
Index Search Issues With AR-2s - Identifying the correct individual's AR-2 can be difficult. To differentiate between individuals with the same or similar names and dates of birth in AR-2 records, the most useful information is often an immigrant’s residence ca. 1940 (State, county, town) and/or their occupation.
Record Request Issues - Be aware of the following potential Records Request Issues:
Unless you are certain of your immigrant's A-number, you are strongly encouraged to submit an Index Search Request before your Record Request to avoid complications. Besides avoiding a wrong number, the Index Search may also identify additional immigration records that you may want to include in your Records Request. A-numbers above 8 million match to A-Files that are out of scope for the Genealogy Program and must be requested through the USCIS Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program.
If the immigrant later naturalized between ca. 1942 and 1956, you may find the A-number at the bottom of the naturalization index card maintained by the naturalization court. If that A-number is below approximately 5.6 million, there should be a corresponding Form AR-2 (see C-Files). If the immigrant did not later naturalize, you may find the number on or among the immigrant’s personal papers.
Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/17/2013