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Alien Files (A-Files) at the National Archives

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) signed an agreement on June 3, 2009, to make the Alien Files a permanent series of records, transferred to NARA custody 100 years after the immigrant's year of birth.

As of August 1, 2012, the National Archives at Kansas City received the following holdings:

  • More than 400,000 A-Files for individuals who were born 1910 and prior.

As of May 14, 2012, the National Archives at San Francisco received the following holdings:

  • 43,836 A-Files for individuals who were born 1910 and prior, largely from the INS-Honolulu and INS-Guam District Offices

A-Files at the National Archives at San Francisco were formerly maintained by the San Francisco, Honolulu, Reno, and Guam District Offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. However, researchers seeking individuals who may have lived in these areas should check both the National Archives at San Francisco and Kansas City records for A-Files.

What's an A-File?

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began issuing each alien an Alien Registration number in 1940, and on April 1, 1944, began using this number to create individual case files, called Alien Files or A-Files.

A-Files contain all records of any active case of an alien not yet naturalized as they passed through the United States immigration and inspection process. An A-File might also be created without any action taken by the alien, for example if INS initiated a law enforcement action against or involving the alien.

In a few instances there are files on aliens who registered between 1940 and 1944. These files document aliens who received an Alien Registration number and form prior to 1944, and had an A-File created due to the re-opening of the case after 1944. Files from other series, such as Visa Files, were withdrawn and placed in the A-Files when cases were reopened in instances such as the filing of applications to replace a document, obtain a border crossing card, or petition for an immigrant relative.

What is the research value of A-Files?

A-Files are a rich source of biographical information in that they contain relatively modern immigration documents, all in one file. Since the early 20th century the United States collected increasing amounts of information from immigrants and A-Files from mid-century hold a wealth of data, including visas, photographs, applications, affidavits, correspondence, and more.

Links to Resources at NARA about Aliens

See Also:
Chinese Immigration
Immigration Records
Naturalization Records

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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