Visa Files Image Gallery
The images shown in this gallery are of typical documents found in Visa Files and are for representative purposes only. Some data has 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 military service.
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.