Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Updates on USCIS Genealogy Program

On August 10, 2008 I posted to the JewishGen Discussion Group a notice regarding the new USCIS (UnitedStates Citizenship and Immigration Service) Genealogy Program--a fee-for-serviceprogram which expedites requests. (www.uscis.gov/genealogy).

As with any new program, during the first weeks learning the system and beingdeluged with requests it might have taken longer than expected to get a response.I have been advised that the program is catching up and the wait is more in line withwhat was originally anticipated--several weeks to several months ...and mostdefinitely much shorter than the Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests previously--which has been known to take months and sometimes years.

You may make a request on-line or snail mail. The on-line request system was notoperational at the time the new genealogy service was launched, but has beenavailable for the past several months. To access either the on-line or postal mailrequests go to the site: www.uscis.gov/genealogy and on the right hand side is anarea entitled " related links". Click on the appropriate link for on-line or postalmail requests.

I am sharing with you some suggestions from Marian Smith, Historian of the USCIS, to assist you with your requests :

If your question is: "Does USCIS have any record of this immigrant?" then submitform G-1041/Index Search Request. The response letter will answer the question,and if yes, will provide the file number(s). Send only one form per immigrant.Do not send a separate form (and $20 more!) for each spelling variation. Provideall spelling variations, alternate birth dates, etc. Also, please tell USCIS wherethe immigrant lived in the US. Read the website (URL above) and think about theserecords. Do not send a request for someone born in 1763, or 1954, as they areoutside the program's scope. The USCIS's primary population of immigrants in theGenealogy Program records were born between 1875 and 1930, and/or arrived since the 1890's. Most immigrants born before that or arrived prior to 1890/1895 were likely naturalized prior to 1906 and are not in the USCIS records. Of course there are exceptions, but this is the general rule.

If your question is "Please send me file number __________," then submit formG-1041A/Record Request. If filing online, the Record Request will fail without afile number. If filing on paper, and the form does not contain a file number, itwill either be treated as an index search request or rejected (there are no refunds).

If filing on paper, do not send forms or fees to the Washington, DC, address--theymust all go to the PO box address in Chicago which is listed on the form which youmay download from the URL (address above) under box entitled "immigration forms".Correspondence can go to the DC address: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,ATTN: Genealogy Section, 1200 1st Street NE, 2nd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20529-2206,or to their email address genealogy.uscis@dhs.gov. Remember it is holiday time sostaff may be taking some days off.

Payment may be in the form of a cashier’s check or money order. Personal checks willnot be accepted. Do not send cash.

For those of you who had requests to the USCIS, under the FOIA program--and they werereceived by the USCIS PRIOR to August 13, 2008, you may continue to wait under theFOIA program--or withdraw the request and make the request under the fee-for-serviceUSCIS Genealogy Program. If you sent a FOIA after August 13, and the request was forany of the records covered by the Genealogy Program or for an individual born morethan 100 years ago, FOIA must reject it and refer them to the Genealogy Program.

The fees for requesting the documents under the fee-for-service USCIS GenealogyProgram are:
Per index request $20.00Per record/file request;
From a microfilm $20.00;
From paper file $35.00.but the value of your time waiting for the FOIA - unknown amount of time- but basedon history longer than weeks or several months versus not paying for the request isan individual choice.

The types of records covered by the genealogy program are:
Naturalization Certificate Files (C-files) from September 27, 1906 to April 1,1956
Alien Registration Forms from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944
Visa files from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944
Registry Files from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944 Alien Files (A-files) numbered below 8 million (A8000000) and documents thereindated prior to May 1, 1951

Continue to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for:Files of living subjectsNaturalization records after April 1, 1956Visa records for immigrant arrivals on or after May 1 1951 in A filesA files above 8 million and documents dated on or after May 1, 1951Registry documents after May 1, 1951Alien registration files on or after May 1, 1951 (in A Files)

Jan Meisels Allen
Director, IAJGS and
Chairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

6 comments:

  1. I sent in my file search request nearly 4 months ago and still have no reply. I queried for status after about 2 months and was told they can't project a response date but that it will be soon (and that was 2 months ago).

    It sounds like a good program, but if it's going to take this long to get a reply, I'm not sure how broadly useful it is.

    I hope that they are just searching hard, and that it's not the inefficiencies of government that are causing the delay.

    ReplyDelete
  2. USCIS Genealogy has now started listing their progress at the bottom of the homepage. Currently, it shows a 3-month delay.

    This program must be under-resourced.

    ReplyDelete
  3. USCIS delays continue to increase. They were going great guns at first, but have now lapsed into a delay that's closer to 6 months. Too bad they couldn't keep their good work.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Filing an application or petition with USCIS can seem like an overwhelming task. Applicants are well advised to do their homework ahead of time. Avoiding common mistakes and oversights can save a lot of time and anxiety while the petition or application is pending with USCIS.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I did a index search just recently. I'm hoping the USCIS gen program works as promised. I entered my case id [GENxxxxxxxx] but the program didn't recognise it. I hope it won't be months until I receive the result in the mail.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome. Please post responsibly.