USCIS Forms & Genealogy Program: FAQs

#1: Which Records Can I Get From the Genealogy Program?

Records provided by the USCIS citizenship and immigration (USCIS) services are listed below:

#2: Should My File Number be Valid for a Records Request?

Yes. Assuming you lack the proper file number, you’ll need index searches to get the correct one. The following link should give you more info on file numbers.

#3: How Much Time is Required for a Response?

The USCIS typically responds to requests in a 90 day timeframe. With that, some delays may occur, increasing processing times.

The USCIS does provide features for better tracking. You can check the USCIS request status link, which lets you either send an inquiry or track your request’s progress.

#4: Can I Get Certified Copies of Naturalization Records (or an Original Copy) From the Program?

Unfortunately not. The program only provides photocopies of naturalization documents.

Applicants can submit a Genealogy Records Request (USCIS Form G-1041A), assuming they only require copies of their naturalization certificate (that’s not already certified), and to fulfill dual citizenship foreign application requirements.

This can prevent delays during processing, which occur when additional info is required on an immigrant’s children (for review, and via the Privacy Act). Applicants can exclusively request certificates through their USCIS Form G0141A by writing “Dual Citz-Natz Certificate Only,” or by typing that statement in their online request (under “Optional Information Section”).

#5: I’d Like to Get Copies of a Record or Perform an Index Research. How Can I Apply?

You can do so by visiting the following link.

#6: What Info Should I Provide When Searching Through Historical Indices? What Results Should I Expect?

The following information on the immigrant is required:

  • Their full name (this includes variant spellings or any alias).
  • Birth Date (if the exact day and month aren’t available, then at least provide the birth year).
  • Birth country.

Applicants should also submit info on where that immigrant resided in the United States (if found). For example, the search may state (lived in CT through the 1920s, moved to NY in 1931, until death).

Other info can help the search, including family member names (especially children and spouses), dates of marriage, and dates of military service.

A report will be sent to applicants with search results found on each Index Search Request. Results may vary, with normal index search responses providing file numbers, file series information, and extra information (listed below).

File Numbers and Series

Information Included in the Report

(Alien Registration Forms AR-2) A-Number

Information on the process of submitting genealogy record requests.

(A-Files under 8 million) A-Number

Information on the process of submitting genealogy record requests (or Privacy Act/Freedom of Information requests, if needed).

(Citizenship/Naturalization Certificate Files) C-Number

Naturalization date and ruling court, petition number if available; information on submitting genealogy record requests.

(Visa Files, 1924 to 1944) Visa Number

Immigrant name when entering the US; ship, date, and port of arrival; information on submitting genealogy record requests.

(Registry Files, 1929 to 1944)


Information on submitting genealogy record requests.

(Chinese Exclusion Field Files, 1882 to 1944)

[File Number]

Information on requesting files from the Records Administration or National Archives.

(Subject Correspondence Files, 1893 to 1957)

[File Number]

Information on requesting files from the Records Administration or National Archives.

“No Record”

“No record” indicates that the search couldn’t find a match in the index based on the provided info when the request was submitted.

"No record" responses may differ, with some occurring from a problem in identifying a specific immigrant through millions of entries. This will occur when:

  1. Requests attempt to search for a commonly used name.
  2. Requests provide little to no extra information to identify the intended immigrant.

#7: What Info and USCIS Form is Needed to Get Copies of Any Historical Record – And What Results Should I Expect?

To request records, you need to identify files according to their:

  • Proper file number (and)
  • Name of designated immigrant mentioned in that record.

In exchange, the USCIS will send applicants the best copy possible of the desired record. To find your file number, you can visit the Index Search Request’s page, though in certain situations, you can find the numbers from your own research.

For file numbers, four series exist. They correspond to the 5-series files found in records requests, which include:

  • A-Number “Alien Registration Numbers”. Those are for A-Files and/or Forms AR-2 numbered under 8 million. Those 7-digit numbers are printed in immigrant personal documents, and after 1942, they can be found in court naturalization documents.
  • C-File Numbers. Those are for citizen or naturalization certificate files, from 1906 to 1856. Those numbers are printed on original certificates but sometimes exist in other documents.
  • Visa File Numbers. Those are for visa files, which were assigned domestically via the immigration agency. They cannot be retrieved outside of index search requests. Also, those files aren’t listed on ship passenger lists.
  • R-Numbers “Registry File Numbers”. Some of those numbers are printed on the manifests of land border cards, which are currently available via microfilm from the National Archives. Often, searchers will discover Certificate of Lawful Entry or Certificates of Registry for the designated immigrant via their personal documents. With that, there’s a possibility that those cards do not list their R-numbers. Most R-File numbers are only provided via Index Search Requests.

If you doubt that the file number you have is correct, you can submit a search request. But, note that no refunds are offered if the provided immigrant name doesn’t match the one in a file matching the provided file number.

#8: How Should I Proceed if a Password Isn’t Accepted, or if an Error Triggers When Attempting to Submit a USCIS Online Genealogy Record Request?

You should:

  1. Enter the ordering system online.
  2. Pick the 3rd option “Record Request without Request Case ID”.
  3. Go through the prompts on-screen to finalize your request.

#9: Should I Include Evidence of Death in a Request?

Yes. Applicants must supply documented evidence of death, if the request’s subject birth date was 100 years earlier than the request date.

#10: What’s the Best Way to Provide Evidence of Death?

Accepted documentation includes the following:

  1. Death certificate photocopies.
  2. Social Security Death Index Records (US – only individual records are allowed, no lists are allowed).
  3. Gravestone photograph, or funeral program, and/or printed obituary.
  4. Religious death records (preferably from a church).
  5. Records show that death benefits were paid.
  6. Other documentation proving that the individual has passed away.

You’re required to attach copies of the prior records with the request. Make sure you do not hand in original documents, since those will not be returned to you.

#11: Which Request Should be Made – The Privacy Act/Freedom of Information (or) Genealogy?

This has to do with the records you’re retrieving.

You can submit genealogy requests if the records you request belong to someone who:

  • Arrived in the US before 1945 (or)
  • Naturalized there before 1st April 1965

If you’re looking for naturalization records created after 1st April 1956, or after the immigrant’s arrival (after 1st May 1951), then you should make an FOIA request.

If you’re requesting a record whose timespan is between 1944 and 1956, you’ll need to fill the Genealogy Index Request (Form G-1041). From there, the USCIS will find the correct records while providing you the instructions needed to issue a request via the FOIA. Also, if an FOIA request finds records that fall under the USCIS’s Genealogy Program then the FOIA will supply instructions on getting those records through Forms G-1041A.

If an FOIA request has an obvious genealogical nature (for example, requests for immigrants born 100+ years prior to the request date, and naturalized before 1956), then the request will return to the requesting end, who will be given instructions on remaking the request via the USCIS’s Genealogy Program.

#12: If the Requester Discovers New Info on the Designated Immigrant after Submitting Their Genealogy Request (or) if the Requester’s phone number or mail/email address has changed – How Do They Update That Information?

Corrections and updates should be sent to the USCIS Updates and Correct Mailbox. The requester should enter their Case ID numbers into subject lines, plus any extra info in the email’s body text.

#13: How Do Requesters Pay Fees?

You can pay the genealogy request fees online, via credit card. They can also be paid by mail via a cashier's check or money order.

For online requests, you can pay your fees online using a credit card or through the services offered by the Department of the Treasury. Fees can be sent via mail too, though the request isn’t processed until all fees are paid.

For mailed requests, fees can be paid for both online and mail requests (via mail) using a cashier’s check or money order only (personal checks aren’t accepted). You can send fees with your Form G-1041A and Form G-1041. If the request is mailed without fees, then the request will be held, and you will be contacted to pay. If the USCIS doesn’t receive the payment within thirty days from the request’s submission date, the request will be canceled.

#14: Does the Program Have a Refund Policy?

It does. Fee refunds are received when:

  1. Index Search Requests provide applicants with the needed file number, so the researcher can create a records request using the Case ID of the previous index request. From there, if the program isn’t able to find the previously identified file, the USCIS will complete a Request for Refund Fee (Form G-266), before notifying the applicant accordingly.

  1. If the applicant submits Forms G-1041A or G-1041 via mail while overpaying. That is, if applicants submit a form (costing $65)  but then attach $80 as a fee, the request will be processed, and a Form G-266 will be completed to refund the overpaid amount.

If it’s determined that a refund should be issued, the Department of the Treasury will send applicants a check via US postal mail. The check should be delivered within thirty days.

#15: Where Are Naturalization Records Found Prior to September 27, 1906?

Naturalization records dating back that far are found in municipal/local, state, and federal court records.

During that time, naturalization records were kept only by naturalization courts. Naturalization procedures and practices vary heavily throughout time and by location. Thus, local sources are the best places to get information on the whereabouts of naturalization records pre-1906.

For more info on local and state courts, you can contact the county or state genealogical or historical societies in the places where you think immigrants naturalized. For a federal court record, you can get in touch with the National Archives and Records Administration.

To find more info on arrival dates and nationality documents before September 27, 1906, you can visit the USCIS website Research Guidance link.

#16: Where Can I Find USCIS Records Copies Newer Than Those Given Via the Genealogy Program (i.e. Alien Files over 8 million, or C-Files dating after April 1st, 1956)?

For USCIS records that aren’t included in the program’s scope (and that aren’t covered by specific request forms or rules), you can file a Privacy Act or Freedom of Information Act Request.

#17: Where Are Immigration Passenger Records Located?

Air, sea, and land manifests (prior to December 1982) are currently maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.

A multitude of historical manifests also exist online via services (including and With that, researchers are charged a fee for access to those websites.

#18: How Can I Receive a Record of Naturalization’s Certificate of Non-Existence?

To claim one for a certain record, you’ll need to send the request to the address mentioned below. The service is free, and no fees or money are accepted.

The address is as follows:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

ttn: IMLS/Certification of Non-Existence/RM 5224

150 Space Center Loop

Lee’s Summit, MO 64064

If an immigrant was born under 100 years before the date of request, you’re also required to attach copies of their death and birth certificates.

The service doesn’t handle original requests made via email. Also, the service only mails certificates of non-existence to American addresses.

#19: How Can I Get My Personal (or a Consenting Relative’s) Records Via the USCIS?

To get copies of personal records and/or those belonging to living and consenting relatives, you’ll need to file a Privacy Act or Freedom of Information Act.

You can visit USCIS’s FOIA request sheet to submit your request.

#20: How Do I Request Specific Braceros Through USCIS Records?

Many who entered the US from 1942 to 1951 did so as “Braceros”— who were contracted agricultural workers. From 1951 to 1965, Braceros were given temporary nonimmigrant status after entry, and thus, the USCIS maintained no records of their admissions.

Thus, lawfully residing Braceros who returned to Mexico after completing their contracts may not be shown in USCIS records.

However, some Braceros did immigrate later (or chose to adjust later on) to a different legal status in US society. As a result, they may have USCIS files, though that file isn’t guaranteed to document that immigrant’s former Bracero status.

Submitting Requests (How and Where)

If a bracero is still alive, you can submit the request via:

  • Request/USCIS FOIA form (at the USCIS website - via a Form G-639). No money should be sent with the request.

If a bracero has passed away, you can submit the request via:

  • A USCIS Genealogy Index Search Request (at the USCIS official site, - via an online submission or Form G-1041, costing $65)

Evidence of death is needed if a bracero’s birth date was less than one-hundred years prior to the request date. To do so, type “Bracero” in the request’s comments section. The USCIS will go through its indices to see if a matching record exists:

  • If the record isn’t found – you’ll receive a reply letter with “no record.”
  • If a record is found – you’ll receive further instructions to complete your request.