The images shown in this gallery are of typical documents found in Visa Files and are for representative purposes only. Some data have been omitted due to privacy reasons. Documents availability vary by case.
Visa Files were opened for every immigrant admitted for permanent US
residence between July 1, 1924 and March 31, 1944. Issued by the
Department of State on Form FS-256 or FS 257, the files consist of a
large application document and all required documents submitted to support
the application. Both Quota Immigrants and Non-Quota Immigrants had visas
containing the same information. Quota Visa forms are white.
Non-Quota Visa forms are blue.
The large visa application form contains all information found on a ship
manifest of the same date, as well as additional data. Included are the
names of any minor children, the full and maiden names of both parents,
and listing of all official documents attached or shown to the US Consul
prior to issuance of the visa.
On the back of the visa application form summarizes the facts of the immigrant’s
arrival (port, date, ship), whether admitted on primary inspection or by a Board
of Special Inquiry (BSI), and whether the BSI decision was appealed to
Washington. Because Visa Files are official arrival records, annotations
related to later verification for naturalization are found handwritten on the
back of the visa.
Most Visa Files include a required certified copy of the immigrant’s birth
certificate. If an official document was unavailable, the file will include an
affidavit or some other substitute birth record.
Visa Files contain a multitude of varying vital records from different countries
at different times.
Most Visa Files include a required health certificate showing the immigrant
was free from contagious disease or any disability that would hinder their
ability to make a living in the US.
Most Visa Files for adults include a criminal background check record from
their home country. These may be called “police certificates” or “morality
certificates” or some other name depending on the country and date.
Visa Files for married persons usually contain a certified copy of their
marriage record. If a husband and wife immigrated together the marriage
certificate may only appear in one of their files.
Visa Files for men of military service age, especially if their home country
required military service before emigration, will include a certificate of
If an immigrant was considered a likely public charge, especially after 1929,
the government could ask for an “affidavit of support” to support the visa
application. If such an affidavit was required and supplied, it will be included
in the Visa File.