The images shown in this gallery reflect typical information found in AR2 Forms and are for representative purposes only. Some data have been omitted due to privacy reasons. Documents availability vary by case.
The 1940 Alien Registration Act required all aliens age 14 and older to be
registered and fingerprinted. From August to December 1940 more than
five million alien residents of the US registered at Post Offices while agency
employees processed the millions of 2-page registration forms. The form used
was the AR-2, Alien Registration Form.
The first question on the AR-2 form asked about the immigrant’s name: What
is their name, what name did they use at the time of entry, and what other
names did they use? Up to three names were cross-indexed to their Alien
Registration Number in the INS (now USCIS) indices. The form also called for
a present address (question 2), exact date of birth (question 3a) and exact
place of birth (question 3b). Variant names all linked to one street address
and date and place of birth made the A-number a unique identifier.
Question 7 asked for the port, date, and ship of the alien’s last (most recent)
arrival and their status at that time (passenger, crew, stowaway, etc.).
Question 7e asked for the date of the first arrival, which may or may not be
the same as the last. AR-2 forms can be very valuable when researching
immigrants who were elderly aliens in 1940. In the example above, the
immigrant knew he came through New York at about two years of age,
but had no more specific information. Nevertheless his answer could help
to narrow or focus a search that previously had no clue to follow.
AR-2 Forms can be especially helpful in cases where no other arrival record
exists. In this example the immigrant came from Mexico to Texas as an infant
in 1855, a half-century before the US Government first created immigration
records at the Southern Border. Though the arrival information came from
memory and was not verified, if the immigrant did not naturalize the AR-2 Form
may be the only record where the immigrant claimed a port and date of arrival.
The Great Depression shifted many people out of their regular jobs, so
question 9 asked registrants about their usual occupation as well as their
present occupation. It also called for the name, address, and “business” of
their employer. A wide range of occupations are represented in the AR-2
Question 10 asked about membership in clubs, organizations, or societies
over the prior five years. Some registrants listed every membership they
could imagine, from religious to political to social. Others left that question
Question 11 called for information about prior military service, specifically the
country, branch of service, and dates, and could point to additional records in
the old country.
Question 12 asked the registrant whether they ever filed “first papers” for
naturalization, and if so when and in what court. It called for the same if a
petition for naturalization had been filed. This information could lead a
researcher to a previously unknown court naturalization record or a later
Question 14 called for criminal record information, and can sometimes provide
surprising clues to additional police or court records.
Each registered alien had to sign the AR-2 form. If illiterate, they entered
“their mark” and a friend or witness signed for them. An alien registration
official also signed the form. The official was usually a US Postal Service
employee who stamped the form with the registration date and place.
Occasionally the AR-2 Form will include a supplemental page. This is
especially likely for persons born in Germany, Italy, or Japan (WW II
enemy aliens) or those who wished to clarify a certain answer or those
who disputed their status as an alien. The comments provided in a
supplemental sheet can be brief or tell a detailed story.
USCIS Genealogy Program Record Requests for AR-2 Forms must include the
A-number. Researchers may find A-numbers on index cards to court
naturalization records after 1941, on original alien registration receipt cards,
or other of the immigrant’s personal papers. If the immigrant registered as an
alien in 1940 their A-number can be learned from an Index