Alien Resident Files Opened to Public


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For the first time, more than 300,000 case files on alien residents of the United States who were born 1909 and prior are now open to the public at the National Archives at Kansas City. These files, known as “Alien Files” (commonly referred to as “A-Files”) were transferred to the National Archives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and are only a small part of the millions of case files that will eventually be transferred and opened to the public.

“The A-files are a key to unlocking the fascinating stories of millions of people who traveled to the United States in search of opportunity, including my own grandfather” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “They include information such as photographs, personal correspondence, birth certificates, health records, interview transcripts, visas, applications and other information on all non-naturalized alien residents, both legal and illegal. The snapshot of American life that develops from each file can, in some cases, serve as a one-stop-shopping for researchers.”

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor agency of USCIS, began issuing aliens Alien Registration numbers in 1940, and on April 1, 1944, began using this number to create the A-Files. A-Files document the famous, the infamous, the anonymous and the well-known, and are an historical and genealogical goldmine. These files contain an abundance of relatively modern immigration documents in one file, making them a rich source of biographical information.

A-Files are eligible for transfer to the National Archives when 100 years have passed since the birth date of the subject of a file. These transfers to the National Archives ensure that these records will be saved and made available to the public. The National Archives at Kansas City will maintain A-Files from all USCIS district offices except San Francisco, Honolulu, Reno, and Guam. These files will be housed at the National Archives at San Francisco because of the significant research use of related immigration files there. Files to be housed at the National Archives at San Francisco are currently being prepared for transfer.

A-Files may be viewed in person by appointment at the National Archives at Kansas City or copies of files may be ordered for a fee. Additional information on requesting A-Files may be found here.

For more information about these records, contact Elizabeth Carrington, archivist, at 816-268-8093 or afiles.kansascity@nara.gov.

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