National Archives at San Francisco Opens Immigration Files and Dedicates Tom Lantos Research Center
Press Release · Tuesday, May 22, 2012

San Bruno, CA…Today the National Archives at San Francisco officially opened to the public over 40,000 case files on immigrants to the United States, and dedicated its research room to the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos who was a leading force in having these files re-designated as records of permanent historical value.

These immigration files, known as “Alien Files” (commonly referred to as “A-Files”), were transferred from U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They are among the first of millions of case files that will eventually be opened to the public.

In 1940 the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor of USCIS, started issuing Alien Registration Numbers to resident aliens in the United States. On April 1, 1944, INS began to assign these numbers to a new series of immigration case files called A-Files. A-Files are a genealogical wealth of information, containing documents such as photographs, personal correspondence, vital records, interview transcripts, and visa applications.

“The A-Files are a unique resource for family historians, especially the descendants of 20th century immigrants,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “These records are rich with personal information that will illuminate the journeys of our ancestors – including my own family – and their paths to citizenship.”

A-Files are eligible for transfer to the National Archives 100 years after the birth of the subject of a file. These transfers to the National Archives ensure that these records will be saved in perpetuity and made available to the public for research.

The holdings of the National Archives at San Francisco will include many case files created at USCIS District Offices in San Francisco, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada; and Agana, Guam, American Samoa and the American Territories. The National Archives at Kansas City will maintain A-Files for all other INS District Offices nationwide.

A-Files may be viewed in person by appointment or copies may be ordered for a fee. Researchers may contact National Archives staff at to search A-Files holdings for a particular file. Beginning Tuesday, May 29, an online database will be available through the National Archives at San Francisco website [].

The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that preserves and shares with the public records that trace the story of our nation, government, and the American people. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The National Archives is a public trust upon which our democracy depends, ensuring access to essential evidence that protects the rights of American citizens, documents the actions of the government, and reveals the evolving national experience. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at

The National Archives at San Francisco is one of 22 facilities nationwide where the public can access Federal archival records in person. Its holdings total over 60,000 cubic feet of historical records dating from the 1850s to the 1990s, created by more than 100 Federal agencies and courts in northern and central California, Nevada (except for Clark County), Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the American Territories. The facility is located at 1000 Commodore Drive, San Bruno, CA 94066. The National Archives at San Francisco is open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (until 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.) Appointments are strongly encouraged.

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For more information about these records, contact Marisa Louie, archivist, at 650-238-3501 or email


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