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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Genealogy on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Website

One of the classes I attended at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy on January 14, 2015 was "Records of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services" by Suzanne Russo Adams, MA, AG. Very early in my legal career, I acted as a court appointed attorney for hundreds of undocumented aliens who were being detained in the United States as material witnesses in alien smuggling cases. Since that time, I have not kept up with all of the changes in the law and particularly those concerning naturalization. It was interesting to learn not only about the changes in the law but the ability to use these records for genealogical purposes.

While driving in Southern Arizona and California, I have become pretty well acquainted with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) as they set up roadblocks on highways looking for undocumented aliens. I was also vaguely aware that the name of the INS had changed to ICE or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I guess I was somewhat surprised to find out about the agency changes over the years and the availability of genealogically important records.

The main website is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

This is where you probably do not want to start, however, the UCIS is one of three agencies, now under the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) that were previously part of the INS. Those agencies are:
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)
Now comes the good news, the USCIS has a genealogy program. Here is a screenshot:

The records available under the genealogy program include the following:
1. Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), September 27, 1906 to March 31, 1956;
2. Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2), August 1940 to March 1944;
3. Visa Files, July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944;
4. Registry Files, March 1929 to March 31, 1944;
5. A-Files, April 1, 1944 to May 1, 1951;
Requesting records can take a considerable period of time. The website has a flow chart showing the process:

I would suggest that the number of types of records is somewhat overwhelming. I suggest starting this whole inquiry with the Research Wiki page on United States Naturalization and Citizenship and the links from that page. 

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