Researching Alien Files (A-Files) at the National Archives at Kansas City
A-Files may be viewed in person by visiting the National Archives at Kansas City by appointment or copies of files may be ordered for a fee.
NARA's holdings of A-Files will grow annually at Kansas City as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service continues to transfer records. Currently there are more than 450,000 files available belonging to individuals born 1910 and prior. The A-Files are contained within RG 566, Records of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service [USCIS].
Additional files are also available at the National Archives at San Francisco. Records at the National Archives at San Francisco contain some of the available A-Files from the Reno, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Guam District of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Researchers seeking individuals who may have lived in these areas should check both the National Archives at San Francisco and Kansas City records for A-Files.
Search our Online Catalog to find out if NARA currently has an A-File for a specific individual. Check the catalog entry to see where the file is located.
- Frequently Asked Questions about the Alien Files (A-Files)
- How to Request Copies of Alien Files (A-Files)
- How to Request Alien Files (A-Files) for use On-Site
- Research and Reproduction Fees
- Helpful Links
- Send us an e-mail or letter to request records
Before submitting a request we ask that you search for the individual in NARA's Online Catalog. The catalog contains the names of ever individual presently contained in our A-Files holdings. If you do not have access to a computer, members of our staff can aid in this process.
If the name of the individual you are researching does not appear within the Online Catalog we ask that you refrain from submitting a record request as we will be unable to provide reference service. Please see the FAQ section for more information.
Requests must contain enough information to identify the record. Certain basic information is required to locate A-Files. This information includes:
- The individual's complete name (with aliases or maiden names, if known)
- National Archives Identifier
- Alien Registration number
The following information is optional but is helpful in confirming that we have located the correct individual's A-File:
- Date/Place of birth
- Date of entry into the United States
We receive requests either by e-mail, postal mail, or fax only.
- E-mail: Afiles.KansasCity@nara.gov
- Postal mail:
National Archives at Kansas City
Attn: A-Files Request
400 W. Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
- Fax: (816) 268–8038
The National Archives at Kansas City has recently relocated to a new facility in the Union Station District of Kansas City. The A-Files records are not stored at this facility, but they may be retrieved with advance notice for researches who wish to view the original records.
Appointments are required to view the A-Files. Researchers must submit a written request at least three business days in advance of their desired appointment. Written requests must include all information required for record requests as outlined above.
Before submitting a request we ask that you search for the individual in our Online Catalog. The catalog contains the name of every individual presently contained in our A-Files holdings. If you do not have access to a computer, members of our staff can aid in this process. If the name of the individual you are researching does not appear within the Online Catalog we ask that you refrain from submitting a record request as we will be unable to provide reference service.
Address: National Archives at Kansas City
Attn: A-Files Request
400 W. Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
In addition to making copies using our self-service photocopier, researchers are also permitted to make digital images of the records using their own cameras and scanning equipment following NARA guidelines.
Mail Order Services
|Minimum Reproductions Mail Order (up to 25 pages)||$20.00|
|Paper to paper (up to and including 11 in. by 17 in.) made by NARA||$0.80 per copy|
|Self-service paper to paper copy||$0.25 per copy|
Note: The National Archives at Kansas City accepts credit cards, checks, or money order as payment for services rendered.
- What is an A-File?
- What is the research value of A-Files?
- Is the information included in A-Files unique from other genealogical resources?
- Which A-Files are presently available for research through the National Archives?
- What A-File information can I expect to find in the Online Catalog?
- How may I view an A-File?
- My ancestor was born before 1909, but I can't find his/her entry in NARA's online catalog. Should I submit a record request?
- What information do I need to make a record request?
- May I request any A-File if it is available in the Online Catalog?
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began issuing aliens an Alien Registration number in 1940, and on April 1, 1944, began using this number to create individual case files, called Alien Files or A-Files.
A-Files contain all records of any active case of an alien not yet naturalized as they passed through the United States immigration and inspection process. An A-File might also be created without any action taken by the alien, for example if INS initiated a law enforcement action against or involving the alien.
In a few instances there are files on aliens who registered between 1940 and 1944. These files document aliens who received an Alien Registration number and form prior to 1944, and had an A-File created due to the re-opening of the case after 1944. Files from other series, such as visa files, were withdrawn and placed in the A-Files when cases were reopened in instances such as the filing of applications to replace a document, obtain a border crossing card, or petition for an immigrant relative.
If the individual that you seek does not have an A-File, a microfilmed copy of their Alien Registration Form ("Form AR–2") may still be available for research from US Citizenship and Immigration Service.
A-Files are a rich source of biographical information in that they contain relatively modern immigration documents, all in one file. Since the early 20th century the United States collected increasing amounts of information from immigrants and A-Files from mid-century that hold a wealth of data, including visas, photographs, applications, affidavits, correspondence, and more.
Although the files were created beginning in 1944, documents and information included may be much older than that, and could date to the birth of the person. Documents may also be included that date up to the time of any final action related to the alien which could be deportation, permanent resident status, or citizenship.
Yes. No other type of case file contains the same level of comprehensive personal data. In addition, the information contained in the files is largely unique, especially concerning the alien's interaction with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and his/her request for resident status and/or citizenship. Some of the demographic information in the records is available in state/local vital records and census records. However, some demographic information is not likely to be found elsewhere, for example names and addresses of employers, photographs of alien, and residences in non-census years and their country of origin. Also, some files include copies, in original language or translation of foreign birth certificates and marriage licenses that may not be readily accessible or are extant.
The National Archives at Kansas City presently holds a portion of the available A-File records for individuals who were born 1909 and prior. Additional records will be accessioned to our holdings on an annual basis. Each accession will continue to increase the number of records available in the earlier date ranges, while also extending date coverage forward. If you find that the National Archives does not hold the A-File record for the individual you are seeking, please check back at a later date in our Online Catalog as coverage will continue to grow.
Additional files are also available at the National Archives at San Francisco. Records at the National Archives at San Francisco contain A-Files from Reno, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Guam District Offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Each A-File the National Archives maintains is described within our Online Catalog at the individual file level. A-File entries in the Online Catalog may contain:
- Alien Registration number
- Last Name
- First Name
- Date of Birth
- Date of Entry
- Country of Birth
- Father's Name
- Mother's Name
- Naturalization Date
- Naturalization Court
- Naturalization Location
Researchers may order copies of files or view them in person. You must identify the file following the steps outlined in "how to Request Alien Files (A-Files) for use On-Site" and the National Archives will retrieve, review, duplicate, and return the requester a copy of that record. The requester may have obtained the basic A-File information through an Online Catalog search or from another source such as Ancestry.com. There are reproduction fees associated with record requests.
My ancestor was born before 1909, but I can't find his/her entry in the Online Catalog (OPA). Should I submit a record request?
The National Archives can only fulfill record requests that include a valid Alien Registration number and are listed in the Online Catalog. If you cannot find your individual in the Online Catalog, it is because the National Archives does not currently maintain the record you are seeking.
To continue your search contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) through their Genealogy Program [http://www.uscis.gov/genealogy]. The USCIS maintains all active and inactive A-Files that have not yet been transferred into the holdings of the National Archives. The National Archives will accession new A-Files on an annual basis, so you can also continue to check back in the Online Catalog to see if your individual has been added to our holdings.
To make a record request you must provide: the individual's complete name, National Archives Identifier, and Alien Registration number. To confirm that we have referenced the correct file, it is also helpful to provide the individual's date and place of birth and date of entry into the United States. To determine the proper National Archives Identifier and Alien Registration number you can complete a search through the Online Catalog. If you do not have access to a computer, members of our staff can aid in this process.
Tips for Searching for an Individual's Name in the Online Catalog
- Search on the person's full name in first name-last name order.
- Search on the surname only. The records might only include a first initial or a variant spelling of the first name.
- Search on variant spellings of the surname, for example: Luchetti or Lucetti.
- Search on variant spellings of the first name, for example: Joseph Maggio or Guiseppe Maggio.
Anyone may request any A-File that is currently listed in NARA's Online Catalog. A-Files may include personal information about other persons who could still be living, such as immigrant's children. NARA cannot release third party personal information found on documents that are restricted under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemptions, so some records received from the National Archives may have some information redacted.
See more information about the Freedom of Information Act.
Tips for Searching in our Online Catalog
Online Guide for Genealogists - Using the Online Catalog
For information on A-Files not maintained by the National Archives:
US Citizenship and Immigration Genealogy Program