The National Archives at San Francisco officially opened 40,000 case files on immigrants to the United States on May 22, 2012. The research room was dedicated to U.S. Representative Tom Lantos who pushed to have the files re-designated as records of permanent historical value.

Transferred from the U.S. Cititzenship and Immigration Servives (USCIS), the files were known as the “Alien Files” but usually referred to as A-Files are the first of millions of case files that will eventually be opened to the public.

Before the USCIS there was the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). In 1940, the INS started issuing Alien Registration Numbers to resident aliens. Then, in 1944, the INS these numbers were assigned to a new series of immigration case files called A-Files.

These files are an amazing resource for family historians who are descendants of immigrants because they contain a wealth of information, such as, photographs, personal correspondence, vital records, interview transcripts, and visa applications.

In keeping with the 100-year rule, the eligible files the files available for transfer need to be 100 years after the birth of the subject of a file.

The holdings of the National Archives at San Francisco will include many case files created at USCIS District Offices in San Francisco, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada; and Agana, Guam, American Samoa and the American Territories. The National Archives at Kansas City will maintain A-Files for all other INS District Offices nationwide.

A-Files may be viewed in person by appointment or copies may be ordered for a fee. Researchers may contact National Archives staff at to search A-Files holdings for a particular file. Beginning Tuesday, May 29, an online database will be available through the National Archives at San Francisco website []”—NARA


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