1. Parenting
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

How To Make a FOIA Request for Records from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

By

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), holds several types of records of interest to genealogists. These include all U.S. naturalization certificate files (C-Files) dated after September 26, 1906; Immigrant Visa Files from July 1, 1924 to 1944; Alien Registration Forms from August 1940 to April 1, 1944; and Alien Files (A-Files) after April 1, 1944. Relatives can request copies of these immigration records for their deceased ancestors by making a request under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Turn-around time for FOIA requests can take weeks to months

Here's How:

  1. Prepare your request. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests must be submitted in writing. Form G-639 may be used, or you may send a letter with the required criteria.

  2. Provide identifying information. Clearly state the record you are requesting, as well as much identifying information as possible including timeframe of arrival, port of entry, alien registration number, complete name (including possible nicknames or spelling variations), birth date (and death date, if applicable) and location. If you're uncertain about some of the information, say that to.

  3. Provide proof of your right to the information. Include documentation that attests how you are related to the individual whose record you are requesting. USCIS restricts access to information on living individuals, so if the person died within the past 100 years it is also best to include proof of death in the form of a death certificate, obituary, etc.

  4. Determine where to send your request. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from USCIS go to different addresses, depending upon the type of record you're requesting:

      Alien Files:
      National Record Center (NRC)
      P.O. Box 648010
      Lee's Summit, MO 648010-8010

      Naturalization Records, Visa Files and Border Patrol Records:
      US Citizenship and Immigration Serivces FOIA/PA
      111 Massachusetts Avenue
      Washington, D.C. 20529

    The envelope containing your request should be clearly marked "Freedom of Information Request."

  5. Do not include a fee. There is currently no charge for most FOIA requests from USCIS unless the file is a huge one. If there is a charge for extra copying and postage, they will notify you in advance

Tips:

  1. USCIS does not have possession of passenger ship lists and manifests prior to December 1982. Those are available thorough the National archives.

  2. For records of naturalization prior to September 27, 1906, write to the cleerk of court where the naturalization occurred.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.