Re: US Visa applications circa 1948? Do copies exist? #usa #records


Alec Ferretti
 

Visa files were started in 1924, as their own file series, and as of 1944, were rolled over into the newly-created A File series (Alien files).  Both are held by USCIS as part of their Genealogy Program.  However, the only visas that were supposed to be saved were those for permanent residents, and A files were only created for immigrants, not visitors.  It sounds like this woman was coming on a tourist visa, in which case, it is extremely unlikely that the visa would exist today.  If she actually immigrated, but then returned to her home country after the fact, it is quite possible the visa (and the A File) still exist, although technically it shouldn't, because she later left the US for good.  I have a relative who immigrated in about 1960 from Malta, and then returned to Malta a few years later.  INS (now USCIS) never purged her A File, so I was able to get copies.  The file number for the visa on the manifest is of no use to genealogists, because that number was created by the state department and does not cross reference any file.  In order to order a visa file from USCIS, one needs the visa number that they created, which can only be determined by ordering a USCIS index search.  Because visas after 1944 were filed within an A File, you do not need the visa number to obtain that record, should it exist, but you would need the A number, which also can be obtained via a USCIS index search.  This number is sometimes present on naturalization documents, or within ancestors' personal effects, but it seems exceedingly likely that in the case of this woman, her number would only be able to be found by conducting a USCIS index search.  Furthermore, I am skeptical that such a number or file even exists in her case, because as I had said, I suspect that she was not here on an immigrant visa, but instead a tourist visa.  

The only thing you can do to figure this out is to order an index search for $65, and then if they find an A file, you can order the A file for another $65, however to complicate matters is the fact that USCIS is in the midst of a fee increase, which will take effect at the end of this week, so the index search will cost $160, and the A file retrieval will cost about $300.  However, there is pending litigation that might result in a Federal Court enjoining the institution of these fees, meaning that the increase will be delayed or perhaps some day canceled. 

It is also possible that any given A File that is for a person born more than 100 years ago is at the National Archives in Kansas City.  You can search the NARA catalog for the immigrants' name to check.  While they have a few million, most are still with USCIS.  If they were to have an A File, you can order copies from them for a much lower fee, or even visit yourself (when they're open again) and look at the original documents.  

The A File, should it exist, will have a ton of information, including photos, her birth certificate, and likely pages of other documentation.

Alec Ferretti

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