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Record Requests Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a Record Request?

A Genealogy Records Request is a request for USCIS to retrieve a specific record or file related to a particular individual.  The requester identifies the file by number and the Genealogy program will locate, retrieve, review, duplicate, and return to the requester a copy of that record.  The requester may have obtained the USCIS file number through a previous Genealogy Index Search Request or from another source.  The Record Request fee for a microfilmed file is $20.00. The fee for a hard copy (paper) file is $35.00.

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What is in the Records?

 File content varies by the file series and according to the life story of each immigrant.  More information can be found under Historical Records Series.

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Should I Submit a Record Request?

The USCIS Genealogy program can only fulfill record requests that include a valid file number. For a list of file types see information under Sample File Numbers. If you do not have a file number, or if you are unsure whether or not USCIS maintains a record of your ancestor, you should make an Index Search request prior to making a Records Request. Any USCIS file numbers included your Index Search results can be used to make a Records Request with your Case ID.

If you believe you have a valid file number, you may choose to forgo the Index Search and request a Record Request without Case ID. For examples of valid file citations follow the see some Sample File Numbers. Please note that the USCIS Genealogy Program will not provide refunds for Record Requests without Case ID that include an invalid citation and/or result in a “No Records” response.

Important: A single immigrant may have several USCIS records. For example, an immigrant who entered the US in 1924 and naturalized in 1930 may have both a Visa File and a C-File. Researchers who wish to know about all of an immigrant’s USCIS records should file an Index Search request. An Index Search returns citations for all of an immigrant’s records, while a Records Request without Case ID will return only the specific file(s) requested. 

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What Information Do I Need To Make A Successful Record Request?

To make a Record Request you will need to identify the correct File Series and provide the:

  • File number (For more information about File Numbers, see Sample File Numbers);
  • Immigrant’s name;
  • Date of birth (actual or estimated); and
  • Country of birth. 

If the immigrant was born less than 100 years ago, you will also need to provide proof of his/her death.  Acceptable forms of proof of death include:

  • A death certificate;
  • A printed obituary, funeral program, or photograph of gravestone;
  • Bible, church, or other religious records;
  • U.S. Social Security Death Index record (individual records, not lists);
  • Records related to the payment of death benefits; and
  • Other documents demonstrating that the subject of the request is deceased.

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

Also note that you are required to submit the Record Request fee at the time you make your request.  The Record Request fee for a microfilmed file is $20.00 and a hard copy (paper) file costs $35.00.

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What Are the Different File Number Types?

 

Four different types of File Numbers pertain to the Five Series of Agency Records available from USCIS:

  1. Certificate Numbers (C-numbers) relate to (Naturalization) Certificate Files (C-Files);
  2. Visa Numbers identify Visa Files;
  3. Registry File Numbers refer to Registry Files; and
  4. Alien Registration Numbers (A-numbers) match Alien Registration Forms AR-2 and Alien Files (A-Files); in certain cases, the same number will identify both types of record.

For more information about File Numbers, see Sample File Numbers

Important: File Numbers can be confusing, even for seasoned researchers.  Accordingly, the Genealogy Program strongly suggests you submit a Index Search Request before completing your  G-1041A (Record Request).

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Will You Send the Best Possible Copies?

Due to the aging of microfilm, the quality of each document will vary.  However, our specialists will do their best to provide you with the best possible copy available of each document.  The quality of the documents may also be affected if the records must go through FOIA processing.

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90 Days Have Passed - Where Are The Records I Requested?

You may not have received the records you requested for one or more of the following reasons:

1. We are still waiting for the file to arrive from another USCIS office or storage facility;

2. The records you requested contain information about a third party whose privacy must be protected under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552;

3. The file contains classified documents and/or information that the Office of Security must review for declassification before the release of the file;

4. You provided an incorrect record citation number (i.e., file number) when you submitted your records request; and/or we sent you an interim letter requesting the correct information; or we converted your Record Request to a Search Request;

5. Our systems reflect that the file number provided pertains to another subject.  In this instance if we provided the information based on a previous index search request the USCIS Genealogy Program will issue you a refund in the amount of the file; 

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 How Can I Help to Make the Processing of My Record Request Faster?

You can help speed our response to your record request by providing proof of death for any other persons you expect will be identified in a file.  If all individuals identified in the file are proven deceased, the file can be released without processing under the Freedom of Information/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA).   Other persons most commonly found in the records are the immigrant subject's children, spouse, and/or siblings.  Acceptable documentary proof includes any of the following:
Photocopy of Death Certificate;

 

  • Photocopy of Death Certificate;
  • US 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;
  • Other document demonstrating the individual is deceased.

 The Genealogy Program most often find other persons ("third parties") named and identified in the following files:

  • C-Files, 1906-1956;
  • A-Files below 8 Million, 1944-1951 ;
  • Registry Files, 1929-1944;
  • Visa Files 1924-1944.

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Can the USCIS Genealogy Program Provide 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.

  • Dual Citizenship Applications- The Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. advised us that applicants for dual Italian citizenship are not required to provide certified copies of naturalization certificates obtained from USCIS.  Rather, the applicant must present the photocopy of the naturalization certificate along with the USCIS Genealogy Program response letter and mailing envelope.

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 G-1041A/Records Request 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 G-1041A/Records Request form or type this information in the "Optional Information Section" of your online request.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/23/2013