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Genealogy Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Program

 


Making Requests

 

 

About the Fees


 

About Further Research

 

 


 

About the Program


What records are included in the USCIS Genealogy Program?

The Genealogy Program provides records from the Five Series of Agency Records:

Questions about index search results or record copies that you have already received should be directed to genealogy.uscis@dhs.gov. Please include your case identification number in the subject line and in your message.

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Should I submit an index search request before I submit a records request?

All record requests require a valid file number.  If you do not have the appropriate file number, an Index Search will be necessary. For more information about file numbers, see Sample File Numbers.

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How long will it take to get a response?

The USCIS Genealogy Program's mission is to provide a timely response to all requests.  We try to respond to all requests within 90 days.  However, processing delays sometimes occur. See the Request Status page to learn more about how you can gauge the progress of your request or make a status inquiry.

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Can the USCIS Genealogy Program provide a copy or a certified copy of naturalization records?

No - The Genealogy Program cannot provide certified copies.  A Genealogy Record Request can provide an information photocopy of a naturalization record only. 

If you need only a copy of the naturalization certificate (not certified) to satisfy requirements for your foreign application for dual citizenship, you may submit a Records Request (Form G-1041A) for the naturalization certificate only.  Doing so can eliminate any additional processing delay resulting from information about the immigrant's children that may require review under the Privacy Act.  To request only the certificate, write "Dual Citz-Natz Certificate Only" on your Records Request (Form G-1041A) form or type this information in the "Optional Information Section" of your online request.

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Making Requests


How do I submit a request for an index search and/or a copy of a record?

For instructions on how to submit your request, see Make a Genealogy Request.

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 What information am I required to provide for a search of the historical indices, and what do I get in return?

At minimum, you must provide the:

1. Immigrant’s full name (including variant spellings and/or aliases);

2. Date of birth (If you don’t have exact month and/or day, the year is needed); and

3. Country of birth.

For a fully successful search, you should also provide information on where the immigrant lived in the United States.  (For example, "lived in NY in 1920's, then in CT in 1930 to death.")  Other information can be helpful, such as names of family members (particularly spouses and children), marriage dates, military service, etc.

All Index Search Requests will receive a report of search results. Search results vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the biography of the immigrant. A typical Index Search response will include a file number, information about the file series, and additional information as follows:

File Number and Series Report will include...
 A-Number
(Alien Registration Forms AR-2)
Instructions on how to submit a USCIS Genealogy Record Request.

A-Number
(A-Files below 8 million)

Instructions on how to submit a USCIS Genealogy Record Request (or a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act request, if applicable).

C-Number
(Naturalization/Citizenship Certificate Files)

Court and date of naturalization, petition number when available; Instructions on how to submit a USCIS Genealogy Record Request.

Visa Number
(Visa Files, 1924-1944)

Name at entry; port, date, and ship of arrival; Instructions on how to submit a USCIS Genealogy Record Request.

R-Number
(Registry Files, 1929-1944)

Instructions on how to submit a USCIS Genealogy Record Request.

[File number]
(Chinese Exclusion Field Files, 1882-1944)

Instructions on how to request the file from the National Archives (Washington, DC).

[File number]
(Subject Correspondence Files, 1893-1957)

Instructions on how to request the file from the National Archives (Washington, DC).

“No Record”

A negative, “no record” response means nothing could be found in the index matching the information provided in the request.  Some "no record" responses will result from an inability to identify an immigrant among the millions of index entries. This occurs when:

  1. The request is to search a very common name; and/or
  2. The request provides little or no additional information to help us identify one immigrant from another.

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 What information am I required to retrieve a copy of a historical record? What will I get in return?

To request a record, you must identify the file by the:

1. Correct file number; and

2. Name of the immigrant named in the record. 

 In return, you will receive the best possible copy of the requested record.  File numbers may be learned from an Index Search Request or, in some cases, through independent research.  There are four series of file numbers corresponding to the five series of files available through a Record Request:

C-File number for a naturalization or citizenship certificate file, 1906-1956. These numbers are found on original certificates and occasionally on other documents. More about C-File series.

Alien Registration Number (A-number) for a Form AR-2 and/or an A-File numbered below 8 million. These seven digit numbers may be found among an immigrant's personal papers, or after about 1942, on some court naturalization papers. More about A-number series

Important:  Alien Registration Forms AR-2 are only available for A-numbers 1 million to 5,980,116; A6,100,000 to 6,132,126;  A7 000,000 to 7,043 999, and A7 500,000 to 7,759,142.

Visa File number for a Visa File. These numbers were assigned internally by the immigration agency and are not available outside an index search request.  Note:  Visa File numbers do not appear on a ship passenger list.  More about Visa File series.

Registry File number (R-number) for a Registry File.  Some Registry File numbers are found on land border card manifests now available on National Archives Microfilm. Occasionally a researcher will find an immigrant's Certificate of Registry or Certificate of Lawful Entry among personal papers, and those cards may or may not include the R-number. The majority of Registry File numbers will only be available through an Index Search Request. More about R-number series.

* When in doubt about a file number, please submit an Index Search Request. There is no refund when the file corresponding to the file number provided in a Records Request does not match the immigrant's name provided.

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What do I do if my password is not accepted or I received an error when I attempt to submit my Genealogy Records Request online?

  1. Access the online ordering system at https://genealogy.uscis.dhs.gov/
  2. Choose the third option Request a specific file by file number in a Record Request without Request Case ID;
  3. Follow the screen prompts to make your request.

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Do I need to include proof of death with my request? What are acceptable forms of proof of death?

You must provide documentary proof of death with your request if the subject of your request was born less than 100 years before the date of your request.  Acceptable documentary proof includes any of the following:

  • Photocopy of Death Certificate;
  • U.S. Social Security Death Index record (individual record only, no lists);
  • Printed obituary, funeral program, or photograph of gravestone;
  • Bible, church, or other religious death record;
  • Record relating to the payment of death benefits; and
  • Other documents demonstrating the individual is deceased.

Please submit copies of these records with your request.  Do not submit original documents as these documents will not be returned.

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Should I make a Genealogy or FOIA/PA request? How do I decide?

For most researchers, the answer to this question will be determined by the records they seek.  Submit a Genealogy Request if requesting records of an immigrant who:

  • Naturalized before April 1, 1956; or
  • Who arrived before ca. 1945.

Anyone searching for records of a naturalization on or after April 1, 1956, or arrival after May 1, 1951, should submit a FOIA request.

There is an area of overlapping dates (1944-1956) where researchers will not know which program applies.  In such doubtful cases, a Genealogy Index Search Request (Form G-1041) that identifies records outside the scope of the Genealogy Program will provide search results identifying the records and providing instructions for requesting them under FOIA.  Similarly, if a FOIA request identifies records covered by the Genealogy Program, the FOIA Program will provide instructions for requesting those records using the Genealogy Record Request Form (Form G-1041A).

Note:  FOIA requests of an obviously genealogical nature (i.e., born more than 100 years ago, naturalized prior to 1956, etc.) will be returned to the requester with instructions for re-submitting the request through the Genealogy Program.

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After submitting my Genealogy request, I discovered new information about the subject of my request, my mailing address, email address, or phone number have changed.  How can I update this information?

Send updates or corrections to our  Updates and Corrections Mailbox.  Include your Case ID number in the subject line and “Additional Information” in the body of the email. 

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About the Fees



How do I pay the fees?
    • Requests may be submitted online using a credit card, or
    • By mail using a money order or cashier's check as a method of payment.

    Online Requests - Pay fees for online requests by credit card using the Treasury Department's Pay.Gov service.  One can submit a request online and choose to pay the fee by mail (see below), but the request will not be processed until the fee is received.

    Mailed Requests - Fees for mail requests or online requests (with payment by mail) must be paid with money order or cashier's check only (no personal checks will be accepted). The fee must be submitted and mailed with request form G-1041 or G-1041A.  Requests mailed without payment will be held while the requester is contacted to submit the fee.  If payment is not received within 30 days of submitting the request, the request will be canceled.

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     What is the refund policy?

    There are only two instances where any fees will be refunded by the Genealogy Program.  They are:

    1. When an Index Search Request provides a file number, the researcher uses that number to submit a Record Request with case ID (the prior index request), and the Genealogy Program is then unable to locate the file previously identified. The Genealogy Program will complete a Form G-266, Request for Refund of Fee, and notify the researcher accordingly.

    2. When a G-1041 or G-1041A is submitted by mail and includes an overpayment of fee. For example, if someone submitted form G-1041 ($20) but attached a fee of $35. The Genealogy Program will process the request and complete Form G-266, Request for Refund of Fee, to cover the $15 overpayment). Fees must be paid in the exact amount only.

    In those rare instances when the USCIS Genealogy Program determines that a refund is due, the U.S. Treasury Department will issue a check which they will forward to you by U.S. postal mail within 30 days.  

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     Why do copies of textual records cost more than copies of microfilm records?

    All fees cover the costs incurred in providing a service and providing textual files involves additional costs. USCIS must pay fees to a Federal Records Center to retrieve and return a textual file from storage. The program also incurs additional expense on shipping, handling, and duplication of textual files. Finally, most textual files contain a larger number of pages to be duplicated.

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    About Further Research


    Where can I find naturalization records from before September 27, 1906?

    Naturalization records may be found in Federal, State, or local/municipal court records. The courts exercised exclusive jurisdiction over naturalization activity prior to September 27, 1906. Only the naturalization court itself kept records of naturalizations before that date. Naturalization practice and procedure also varied greatly over time and geographical location. As a result, local sources usually provide the best information on how to find pre-1906 naturalization records. For more information on State and local courts, contact the State or county historical or genealogical society in the location where you believe the immigrant naturalized. For Federal court records, contact the National Archives.

    For more information on Arrival and Nationality Records dated prior to September 27, 1906, please visit our Research Guidance page.

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    How do I get copies of USCIS records dated after the records provided by the Genealogy Program (ex: C-Files dated after 4/01/1956, Alien Files numbered above 8 million, etc.)?

    Any USCIS records not included within the scope of the Genealogy Program, and not covered by any other rule or request form, should be requested under the Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act (FOIA/PA). 

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    Where can I find immigration passenger manifests?

    The National Archives now maintains land, sea, and air manifests dated before December 1982. For more information about these passenger lists, see the National Archives webpage.

    Many historical passenger manifests are also available online through services such as ancestry.com and ellisisland.org. However, researchers may have to pay a fee to access these websites.

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    How do I get Certification of Non-existence of a Record of Naturalization?

    To request certification of nonexistence of a specific record, write directly to the USCIS Records Services Branch at:

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
    ATTN: Records Operations Branch
    1200 First Street N.E.
    Washington, D.C. 20529-2204

    It is important that all request letters contain information to specifically identify the immigrant. Requests must contain the:

    • Immigrant’s name (including all variants and aliases);

    • Date of birth; and

    • Place of birth.

    As much information as possible about when and where the immigrant arrived in or lived in the United States and the names of immediate immigrant relatives can also be helpful.  In all cases the immigrant must be deceased.  If the immigrant’s birth date is less than 100 years before the request date, requests for certification of non-existence must include a copy of the immigrant’s death certificate.

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    How Do I Request My Own Records From USCIS (Or Those of A Living Relative With His Or Her Consent)?

    To obtain copies of your own records or those of a living person with their consent, submit a request to the USCIS Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act (FOIA/PA). More information about submitting a FOIA Request, see the USCIS FOIA Request Guide

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    Finding Individual Braceros in USCIS records

    Individuals admitted to the United States as contracted agricultural laborers between 1942 and 1951, and between 1951 and 1965, were admitted temporarily as nonimmigrants.  USCIS did not retain records of temporary admissions.  Lawfully admitted Braceros who fulfilled their contracts and returned to Mexico may not appear in any USCIS record.

    Braceros who later immigrated to or adjusted to another status in the United States will in most cases have a USCIS file.  However, that file may or may not contain any documentation of the subjects’ former status as a Bracero.


    Where and How to Submit Requests:

    If the Bracero is living . . .

    USCIS FOIA/PA Request

    If the Bracero is deceased . . .

    USCIS Genealogy Index Search Request

    • www.uscis.gov/genealogy
    • Form G-1041 or submit online ($20 US fee)
    • If born less than 100 years ago proof of death is required
    • Write “Bracero” in the comments section
    • Genealogy Program will search all indices to identify any matching record and reply with a letter of “no record” OR identifying specific file(s) with instructions on how to request the record(s) from USCIS Genealogy, FOIA, or from the National Archives.

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      Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/27/2013