Alien Registration Files

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Background Information

Under the Alien Registration Act of 1940, immigrants in the United States were required to register and be fingerprinted. Beginning 1 April 1944 the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began creating Alien Files to record the cases of registered aliens as they passed through the United States immigration and inspection process, as well as their subsequent interactions with Federal agencies. There are over 450,000 Alien Files maintained by the National Archives (NARA) belonging to individuals born 1910 and prior.

Record Content

Alien Files hold a wealth of data including visas, photographs, applications, affidavits, correspondence, and more. These files can contain a lot of biographical information about an alien. Some of the information you might hope find could include:

  • Name
  • Name at time of entry to the US
  • Other names used
  • Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Place of Birth
  • Citizenship/Nationality
  • Gender
  • Marital Status
  • Race
  • Height & Weight
  • Hair & Eye Color
  • Port, date, ship and class of admission at last arrival in US
  • Date of first arrival in US
  • Years lived in US
  • Intended stay in US
  • Usual occupation
  • Present occupation
  • Present employer, including address
  • Club, organization, or society memberships
  • Military service (Country, branch, dates)
  • Date and number of Declaration of Intention (if filed), and city and State where filed.
  • Date of Petition for Naturalization (if filed), and city and State where filed.
  • Arrest history
  • Fingerprint
  • Signature
  • Date and place of registration

How to locate Alien Registration Files

You can request copies of these files through the National Archives (NARA). The majority of the records can be found in the Kansas City National Archives location. Some of the files from aliens living in the immigration districts of Guam; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada; and San Francisco, California are housed in the National Archives Regional Office in San Bruno, California.

An online index that includes both locations is available at the NARA website.

Click on Online Catalog to begin your search.

Enter the name of the person you are looking for.

Next view your results. If the information appears to be the person you seek, contact NARA with the contact information found at the bottom of the results page. They will tell you how much copies will be and how to make payment.