Monday, May 22, 2006

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Records

Warning: It will be necessary to track the enactment
of this pay-for-program proposal.

USCIS To Provide Fee-for-Service Genealogy Program

As published in with permission granted:
Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy
Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 7, Number 6 | April 23, 2006

USCIS To Provide Fee-for-Service Genealogy Program
After years of prodding by the genealogical community,
it appears the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
(USCIS-formerly called the Immigration and Naturalization
Service) will provide a method for expediting inquiries
from genealogists for records of their ancestors. There
is a notice in the Federal Register to establish a Genealogy
Program to process requests for historical records of
eceased persons.

USCIS claims it receives 10,000 requests a year for the
current service which is provided free under the Freedom
of Information Act. Because of lack of manpower and facilities,
it can take more than a year for a request to be processed.
The genealogical community suggested that USCIS provide an
alternate fee-for-service method to expedite requests. Such
a service was started a few years ago by the Social Security
Administration to process requests of their historical records.

Under the proposed rules, genealogical inquiries will no longer
be free of charge. If a request is made under the Freedom of
Information Act and USCIS determines it is a genealogical
inquiry, the request will be returned to the sender who
will be asked to resubmit using the Genealogy Program.

The following record groups will be part of the Genealogy
* Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), which are
records from September 27, 1906 to April 1, 1956, relating
to U.S. naturalizations and the issuance of evidence of
naturalization or citizenship.
* Forms AR-2, which are Alien Registration Forms on microfilm
that were completed by all aliens age 14 and older who resided
in or entered the United States between August 1, 1940, and
March 31, 1944. These forms contain identification information,
as well as information regarding the alien's employment and
arrival to the United States.
* Visa Files, which are records from July 1, 1924, to
March 31, 1944 containing the arrival information of
immigrants admitted for permanent residence from July 1, 1924
to March 31, 1944, under the Immigration Act of 1924.
* Registry Files, which are records from March 2, 1929, to
March 31, 1944, containing arrival information of immigrants
who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for
whom no arrival records could later be found.
* A-Files, which are case files on individuals containing all
immigration records created or consolidated from April 1, 1944,
to the present. Only files containing documents dated prior to
May 1, 1951, will be available.

Submitters will have to show proof of death of the individual
such as a death certificate or obituary notice. If the year of
birth was more than 100 years ago, no proof of death will be
required. These records often include information about the
children of the individual, and these children may still be
living; therefore,USCIS states that "the Genealogy Program will
not release personal information concerning a subject's children."

USCIS envisions the service to be in two stages. Initially the
submitter would request an index search to determine what
information is available. Then there would be a request
for the actual documents.

USCIS has budgeted about $1 million per year for the service,
and they expect such a level of expense could handle the
anticipated 25,000 inquiries per year. This would make break
even $40 per inquiry; however, the agency already has in its
budget the cost of processing current inquiries. In the Federal
Register the agency is recommending that the cost for an index
search and for requests for an actual document be between
$16-45 for each file of microfilm being searched and $26-55
for retrieval of textual files.

Interested persons can comment on the proposed regulation.
Information on how to respond to the proposal, as well as a
12-page description of the new plan, is located at the Federal
Register site