Topics

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


A. E. Jordan
 

Thanks Marian.

Your answer and Alex's make it seem highly unlikely a fie exists. She came in labeled "visitor" on the passenger list and left right about six months later. If she is who I think she is it was pretty much understood she was coming for a visit. Family members who met her tell me the story that she came for a visit and I do not see her husband or son following her to the USA either.

Thanks for all the insights.

Allan Jordan




-----Original Message-----
From: Marian via groups.jewishgen.org <portofentry=icloud.com@...>
To: main@...
Sent: Mon, Sep 28, 2020 10:10 am
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] US Visa applications circa 1948? Do copies exist? #records #usa

Hello Allan,

Your question begins saying the person came to the US in 1948 "for a visit."  This may be the factor determining the answer.

US visas (as documents) date from 1924 and include both immigrant (permanent) visas and NONimmigrant (temporary) visas.  The immigrant/permanent records are for those admitted as immigrants to live permanently in the US.  The NONimmigrant visas are for those admitted temporarily, such as "visitors for business or pleasure."  And while we see the records of many NONimmigrants in the passenger lists and passenger arrival records on microfilm and digitized online, records beyond the manifests (like visas) followed a general records management rule:  Records of permanent admissions are permanent, records of temporary admissions are temporary (destroyed).

What this means is that when a visitor arrived in 1948 they were documented (by INS) at least on an I-94 showing nonimmigrant admission (usually 3 to 6 months, and could be extended).  When the visitor departed, the arrival and departure records were married up to verify departure/compliance.  The records might be microfilmed before destruction, or may have just been destroyed.  Temporary records.  

Any arrivals that had no departure record by the date they were required to leave became an "overstay" illegally in the US.  That record was retained long enough to locate the overstay and arrest/deport them.  If it came to that, since 1944, everything would go into an A-file.  

Any records of the NONimmigrant visa application process would have been generated/collected by the Department of State. I know some researchers have been having some luck searching visa issuance matters in DOS Consular records at NARA in College Park, MD, but I'm not sure those records are available for the post-WW II and later era. 

Not a complete answer to all your questions but I hope it helps a little,

Marian Smith


A. E. Jordan
 

Thanks Alex but she was certainly a visitor. The passenger list identifies her as a visitor so the answer seems to be a dead end.
Thanks for the details ad hopefully they will help someone else.

Allan Jordan




-----Original Message-----
From: Alec Ferretti <al13fe26@...>
To: main@...
Sent: Mon, Sep 28, 2020 10:27 am
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] US Visa applications circa 1948? Do copies exist? #records #usa

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


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


Marian
 

Hello Allan,

Your question begins saying the person came to the US in 1948 "for a visit."  This may be the factor determining the answer.

US visas (as documents) date from 1924 and include both immigrant (permanent) visas and NONimmigrant (temporary) visas.  The immigrant/permanent records are for those admitted as immigrants to live permanently in the US.  The NONimmigrant visas are for those admitted temporarily, such as "visitors for business or pleasure."  And while we see the records of many NONimmigrants in the passenger lists and passenger arrival records on microfilm and digitized online, records beyond the manifests (like visas) followed a general records management rule:  Records of permanent admissions are permanent, records of temporary admissions are temporary (destroyed).

What this means is that when a visitor arrived in 1948 they were documented (by INS) at least on an I-94 showing nonimmigrant admission (usually 3 to 6 months, and could be extended).  When the visitor departed, the arrival and departure records were married up to verify departure/compliance.  The records might be microfilmed before destruction, or may have just been destroyed.  Temporary records.  

Any arrivals that had no departure record by the date they were required to leave became an "overstay" illegally in the US.  That record was retained long enough to locate the overstay and arrest/deport them.  If it came to that, since 1944, everything would go into an A-file.  

Any records of the NONimmigrant visa application process would have been generated/collected by the Department of State. I know some researchers have been having some luck searching visa issuance matters in DOS Consular records at NARA in College Park, MD, but I'm not sure those records are available for the post-WW II and later era. 

Not a complete answer to all your questions but I hope it helps a little,

Marian Smith


A. E. Jordan
 

Has anyone had any success in getting a copy of a visa application for someone coming to the USA in 1948 for a visit? What information is contained and was the effort warranted to get it or did it not help?

I spotted someone arriving in 1948 in New York on a passenger list coming from Cairo, Egypt who might be the wife of  relative.  The passenger list shows a visa number.

So the first question would be did copies of the applications end up in the USA, so is there a file for me to even look for on this person?

She arrives in the spring of 1948 and I see her flying outbound in the fall so I know the time frame she was in the USA too. The passenger list tells me the name and address of her son saying that's where she is coming from and  the name and address of the person she is going to be staying with the USA. The family name is the same but it does not tell me how the person coming for the visit is related to the person she is visiting.

Second question if I go for the file what more could I hope to learn if anything?

Third if someone has recent direct experience ... what is the process and did you feel it was worth it in the end?

Thank you. Easy Fast to all who observe.

Allan Jordan