Genealogy Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Program

What records are included in the USCIS Genealogy Program?

How do I submit a question about my request results?

Send your questions about index search results or record copies that you have already received to genealogy.uscis@dhs.gov. Include your case identification number in the subject line and in your message.

Does my records request require a valid file number?

Yes. If you do not have the appropriate file number then you will need to perform an Index Search. Find more information about file numbers.

How long will it take to get a response?

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.

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

No - We can only provide a photocopy of a naturalization record.

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 Form G-1041A, Genealogy Records Request for the naturalization certificate only. This can eliminate 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 Form G-1041A or type this information in the "Optional Information Section" of your online request.

 

Making Requests

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

See our Make a Genealogy Request webpage.

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

At a minimum, you must provide the immigrant’s:

1. Full name (including variant spellings and/or aliases);
2. Date of birth (If you don’t have the exact month and/or day, the year is needed); and
3. Country of birth.

If possible, also provide information on where the immigrant lived in the U.S. (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, and military service.

We will send a report of search results for all Index Search Requests. Search results vary. 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 genealogy records request.

A-Number
(A-Files below 8 million)

Instructions on how to submit a genealogy records 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 genealogy records request

Visa Number
(Visa Files, 1924-1944)

Name at entry; port, date, and ship of arrival; Instructions on how to submit a genealogy records request.

R-Number
(Registry Files, 1929-1944)

Instructions on how to submit a genealogy records request.

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

Instructions on how to request the file from the National Archives and Records Administration

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

Instructions on how to request the file from the National Archives and Records Administration

“No Record”

A “no record” response means we couldn’t find anything in the index that matches 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; or
  2. The request provides little or no additional information to help us identify one immigrant from another.

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, we will send you 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 r

* 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.

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
  2. Choose the third option, Record Request without Request Case ID;
  3. Follow the screen prompts to make your request.

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 records 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:  Form AR-2 is 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.

Do I need to include proof of death with my request?

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.

What are acceptable forms of proof of death?

Acceptable documentary proof includes any of the following:

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

Please submit copies of these records with your request.  Do not submit original documents as we will not return them to you.

Should I make a genealogy or Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act request?

This depends on the records you seek. Submit a genealogy request if you are requesting records of an immigrant who:

  • Naturalized before April 1, 1956; or
  • Arrived before 1945.

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

If the record you seek falls between 1944-1956, complete Form G-1041, Genealogy Index Search Request,and then we will identify the proper records and provide you with instructions for requesting them under FOIA. Similarly, if a FOIA request identifies records covered by the USCIS Genealogy Program, the FOIA program will provide instructions for requesting those records using Form G-1041A.

FOIA requests of an obviously genealogical nature (such as for an immigrant born more than 100 years from the date of your request, naturalized prior to 1956, etc.) will be returned to the requester with instructions for re-submitting the request through the USCIS Genealogy Program.

After submitting my genealogy request, I discovered new information about the immigrant of my request; or my mailing address, email address, or phone number has 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.

 

About the Fees

How do I pay the fees?

Pay your fee for a genealogy request online using a credit card, or by mail using a money order or cashier's check.

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

Mailed Requests - Pay fees for mail requests or online requests (with payment by mail) with a money order or cashier's check only (no personal checks will be accepted). Submit the fee with Form G-1041 or Form G-1041A. If you mail your request without payment then we will hold your request and contact you to submit the fee. If we don’t receive your payment within 30 days from when you submitted the request, we will cancel the request.

What is the refund policy?

We will refund your fee when:

1. 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 we are then unable to locate the file previously identified. We will complete Form G-266, Request for Refund of Fee, and notify you accordingly.

2. You submit  Form G-1041 or Form G-1041A

by mail and overpay. For example, if you submit Form G-1041 ($65) but attached a fee of $80 then we will process the request and complete Form G-266 to cover the $15 overpayment.

If we determine a refund is due, the U.S. Department of the Treasury will issue you a check by U.S. postal mail within 30 days.

 

About Further Research

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

You can find naturalization records from before Sept. 27, 1906, in federal, state, or local/municipal court records. Only the naturalization court kept records of naturalizations before that date. Naturalization practices and procedures 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 and Records Administration.

For more information on arrival and nationality records dated prior to Sept. 27, 1906, visit our Research Guidance page.

How do I get copies of USCIS records dated after the records provided by the Genealogy Program (for example, C-Files dated after April 1,1956, or Alien Files numbered above 8 million)?

For any USCIS records not included within the scope of our and not covered by any other rule or request form, file a Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act Request. 

Where can I find immigration passenger manifests?

The National Archives and Records Administration now maintains land, sea, and air manifests dated before December 1982.

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.

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
  2. Request a specific file by file number in a Record Request without Request Case ID;
  3. Follow the screen prompts to make your request.

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

To request certification of non-existence 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 NE
Washington, DC 20529-2204

Include information that specifically identifies the immigrant. Requests must contain the immigrant’s:

• Name (including all variants and aliases);
• Date of birth; and
• Place of birth.

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

Follow-up questions should be sent to: certificateofnonexistence@uscis.dhs.gov

We do not accept original requests via e-mail.

 

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, file a Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act. For more information about submitting this request, see the USCIS FOIA Request Guide (PDF)

Finding Individual Braceros in USCIS records

Individuals admitted to the U.S. 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 U.S. will in most cases have a USCIS file. However, that file may or may not contain any documentation of the immigrant’s former status as a Bracero.


Where and How to Submit Requests:

If the Bracero is living, submit your request through:

USCIS FOIA/PA Request

  • www.uscis.gov/foia
  • Form G-639, Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Request (don't send money)

If the Bracero is deceased, submit your request through:

           USCIS Genealogy Index Search Request

If the Bracero was born less than 100 years before the date of your request, proof of death is required. Write “Bracero” in the comments section. We will search all indices to identify any matching record and:

  1. If we don’t find the record then we will reply with a letter of “no record;” or
  2. If we find the record then we will reply with instructions on how to request it.

 

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