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Restricting Immigration from Asia and the Pacific, 1870s to 1950s

Early immigration laws placed significant restrictions on migration from Asia and Pacific Islands (API) to the United States. These regulations led to increased scrutiny by immigration officials and the creation of numerous documents. Records concerning certain groups, such as immigrants and U.S. citizens of Chinese descent, can offer a rich source of information. However, it is important to recognize that not all records were created equally for every immigrant group. This page provides an overview on how federal policies uniquely impacted API migrants, explores the key federal agencies responsible for enforcing these stringent immigration laws, and provides guidance for accessing immigration records held at the National Archives.

Legislating Immigration

Restrictive immigration policies exerted considerable influence on the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) experience. Legislation enacted between 1875 and 1965 excluded almost all immigration from Asian countries, stunting the growth of AAPI communities across the United States. Laws targeting specific communities gave rise to certain types of records at different periods in early U.S. immigration history. This helps to explain why some documentation may not exist for every API immigrant.

The following is a brief overview on the policies that most impacted immigrants of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

 

     

     

    Page Act of 1875

    Photograph of U.S. born Lew Bow Kong and his wifeThe earliest federal immigration act (enforced against Asian migration) prohibited entry to the United States by contract laborers and women engaging in “immoral” activities. This law required migrants from Asian countries to obtain certified documents from their ports of departure, which would be examined upon arrival. The law was primarily administered against Chinese women and was repealed in 1974. 

     

    Despite presenting documentation of their exempt status, Chinese women were subjected to interrogations questioning their moral turpitude. Case File for Lew Bow Kong (National Archives Identifier: 19086706).

     

    Immigration Act of 1882

    Passed a few months after the Act of May 1882, the Act of August 1882 (uscis.gov/) prohibited the entry of individuals likely to become “a public charge.” This law barred those lacking Alien Certificate - Insular Territory for Sohn Singhthe means to support themselves, whether referring to a person’s financial resources or medical condition. Though it did not explicitly exclude immigrants based on race, enforcement conflated “undesirable immigrants” with the poor and diseased bodies—prejudices historically applied to Asian immigrants. The public charge doctrine has been expanded in subsequent immigration policies and continues to be enforced today. 

    Sohn Singh was detained due to a hookworm (uncinariasis) diagnosis. Despite filing a writ of habeas corpus, Singh and several other Indian immigrants were deported. Arrival Case File 12815/008-11 (National Archives Identifier: 28817900).

     

    Immigration Act of 1917

    Immigration Act of 1917 (loc.gov/) became the first widely enacted law that implemented a literacy test and restricted immigration from the geographically designated “Asiatic Barred Zone.” Loosely defined as “any country not owned by the U.S. adjacent to the continent of Asia,” the barred zone extended from parts of West Asia to Western China and extended north into parts of Russia and southwest to the Pacific Islands. Japan, the Philippines, and other U.S. territoriesAsiatic Barred Zone Map 1917 in the Pacific, were excluded from the barred zone. The 1917 law made exemptions for professionals and students, and their families. This act was amended in 1924. 

    Asiatic Barred Zone Map from Immigration Laws, Rules of May 1, 1917, USCIS Historical Library.

     

    Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934

    While this statute initiated the process for eventual independence in the Philippine Islands (that took effect in July 1946), it also restricted migration to the U.S. mainland by reclassifying Filipino arrivals from U.S. nationals to aliens and established an annual immigration quota of 50. At the urging of sugar planters, the law made exemptions for the Territory of Hawai’i, and the large recruitment of Filipino labor remained uninterrupted until 1946. Filipino Contract Worker Certificate of Identity No. 517 for Vicente Corpus

    Despite these attempts to staunch the flow of migration from Asia and the Pacific, nearly every policy allowed exemptions to admit otherwise excludable individuals. Though the number of immigrants from this region remained nominal compared to other groups, tenacious emigrants continued to arrive while claiming an exempt category.

    Vicente Corpus arrived in Hawai’i as one of the last group of contracted laborers admitted. Filipino Contract Worker Certificate of Identity No. 517 (National Archives Identifier: 241089565).

    1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

    The Chinese Exclusion Act (passed on May 6, 1882) was the first in a series of race- and class-based legislation that cemented exclusionary measures against Chinese immigrants. Though it specifically targeted Chinese laborers, enforcement placed a heavy burden on all Chinese persons. Despite presenting documents confirming their U.S. citizenship or exempt status (i.e., merchants, students, clergy, and their families), Chinese arrivals were subjected to interrogations that scrutinized their lawful statuses, identification, and familial relationships. As the laws expanded and reduced exempt categories, enforcement progressively became more stringent.

    As the only set of race-specific immigration policies enforced, the Chinese 1996 reference information paper, Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States.Exclusion Acts affected any person of Chinese descent—regardless of their nationality. These policies provided the framework to develop laws applied to other groups. The Act of May 1882 was extended several times through the end of the 19th century, then made permanent in 1904, and finally repealed in 1943. 

    For more information on how numerous federal agencies interpreted and enforced the Chinese Exclusion Acts, see the 1996 reference information paper, Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States.

     

    Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 

    Photograph of ​Tomi Takasu and his husbandAnnounced under Executive Order 589, this 1907 diplomatic pact (history.state.gov/) restricted laborers from Japan and Korea. Unlike the Chinese Exclusion Act, this agreement allowed families of laborers already residing in the United States to immigrate.

    Tomi Takasu was one of many Japanese women who entered the United States as “picture brides,” which was part of customary marriage arrangements. Arrival Case File 14851/024-03 (National Archives Identifier: 28829402).

     

    Immigration Act of 1924

    The Immigration Act of 1924 (National Archives Identifier: 5752154) set a national origin quota to two percent of country-of-origin populations from the 1890 census. It also barred immigrants “ineligible for citizenship,” effectively prohibiting immigration from Asian countries. This law extended restrictive immigration policies to all Japanese citizens, negating the 1907 agreement (history.state.gov/). Non-quota visa for Helen Hisayo NambuNaturalization was finally extended to AAPI persons in the 1940s and 1950s. This opened immigration, but it was still limited by set quotas. National origin quotas were not fully lifted until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

    Despite the quota system, Asian immigrants continued to be admitted with non-quota visas, either as returning residents or family members of those already residing in the United States. Helen Hisayo Nambu, Investigative Case File 4518/0006 (National Archives Identifier: 285450750).

     

    Enforcing Immigration Restrictions

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)

    With no federal immigration administration in place prior to 1882, the Collectors of Customs became the first officials tasked with enforcing immigration laws at ports throughout the United States. While a separate immigration office was established in 1891, customs officials continued to hold jurisdiction over Chinese arrivals until 1900—when these responsibilities were transferred to the Commissioner-General of Immigration. The Collectors of Customs still maintained final approval over local Chinese Bureau investigations until 1903, when the Bureau of Immigration became part of the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor.

    Lacking formalized procedures, U.S. Customs Service relied on its local officials to interpret immigration lawsLetter from John H. Wise, Collector of Customs to W.F. Thompson, 2/26/1895 and develop policies as they saw fit. Because strict exclusionary policies required further scrutiny on Chinese arrivals, many of the activities and opinions of customs officials are documented in correspondence and policy records. 

    Customs Service records are a great resource for historical research and policy decisions related to the enforcement of early exclusionary regulations. While regional offices did not retain individual case files, case files can be found in the records to the Customs Headquarters (Indexes to Case Files and Correspondence Files).

    Wise noted that all Chinese women, even those with exempt status, would be assumed to be “brought for immoral purposes under the guise of wives and children.” Letter from John H. Wise, Collector of Customs to W.F. Thompson, 2/26/1895 (National Archives Identifier: 29007754).

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)

    In 1900, the Bureau of Immigration became the chief agency responsible for implementing federal regulations, and consolidated immigration enforcement within one agency. This office eventually evolved into the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). 

    The INS inherited the early case files created by customs officials and continued to generate an enormous volume of individual case files—as they actively applied various immigration laws with every new policy enacted. Records from Record Group 85 serve as a vital source for genealogical research and in-depth examination of individual case files.

    Note: Most regional INS administrative records no longer exist, except for correspondence with INS Headquarters (INS Subject and Policy Files). 

    Researching the Records

    To begin your research, search for potential immigration records from the National Archives Catalog. If you are able to locate a Catalog record related to your individual, please contact the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) office identified under the section “Archived Copy.” 

    If you are unable to locate an individual in the Catalog, you may wish to contact a NARA office for further assistance. Individual cases might not have been retained at the original entry port, as officials often shared documents between INS offices. Records might have been consolidated into a later INS file at a different port or at the INS office near the person's last known residence.

    To determine which NARA office to contact, identify the most recent port of entry or last known residence. Then contact the closest National Archives office to this known location.

    Sadly, files for many early API immigrants no longer exist. At many National Archives field offices, only segregated Chinese immigration files have survived. Records held at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and at San Francisco include case files for those immigrating from other parts of Asia and the Pacific. 

    For additional information on other types of immigration records, especially on Alien Files (A-Files), visit the Immigrant Records page. 

    The following is a list of Customs Service and INS records related to API immigration housed at NARA facilities across the country. Click the National Archives Identifier for more information on each record series. Scroll down to the bottom of each Catalog record for the NARA office contact details. 

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    Accordion

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)
    Mobile (AL) Collection District

    Records about Chinese Laborers Deported, 1898–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 6017281)

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36) 
    Massachusetts Collections District

    Administrative Records, 1789–1938 (National Archives Identifier: 6789277)

    Connecticut Collections District
    Applications of Chinese Laborers for Certificates of Return to the United States, 1895–1900 (National Archives Identifier: 5757040)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    Boston District Office 
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1911–1955 (National Archives Identifier: 606277)

    Montreal District Office
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1900–1952 (National Archives Identifier: 606625)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    Chicago District Office (including sub offices in Milwaukee, WI, and Gary, IN)
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1898–1940 (National Archives Identifier: 623512)
    Correspondence of the Chinese Division, 1893–1924 (National Archives Identifier: 1461863)

    St. Paul District Office
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1906–1942 (National Archives Identifier: 623518)

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)
    New Orleans Collection District

    Records Relating to Immigrants, 1892–1898 (National Archives Identifier: 2790756)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    El Paso District Office (District 15)

    Testimony of Chinese Arrested for Illegally Entering the United States, May–July 1907 (National Archives Identifier: 583944)
    Descriptive List of Chinese Deported from Arizona, September 1907–November 1908 (National Archives Identifier: 584292)
    Investigative Case Files on Chinese Persons, 1909–1953 (National Archives Identifier: 589956)
    Record of Aliens Arriving at El Paso, April 14, 1906–September 17, 1907 (National Archives Identifier: 583932)

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)
    Champlain (NY) Collection District

    Telegrams Received, February 5,1891–April 1, 1897 (National Archives Identifier: 5240147)

    Oswegatchie (NY) Collection District
    Correspondence Regarding Chinese Immigrants or Deportees, January 2, 1896–June 19, 1900 (National Archives Identifier: 4723892)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    New York District Office

    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1880–1960 (National Archives Identifier: 584668)

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)
    Philadelphia Collections District

    Letters and Reports Received by the Surveyor of Customs, December 1, 1883–April 30, 1900 (National Archives Identifier: 4719093)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    Philadelphia District Office (District 4)

    Identification Papers of Chinese Exhibitors Appearing at the National Export Exposition of 1899, 1899–1899 (National Archives Identifier: 567447)
    Records Relating to Chinese Cases, 1896–1918 (National Archives Identifier: 569587)
    Chinese Cases Day Book, April 27, 1903–August 7, 1904 (National Archives Identifier: 89726026)
    Chinese Census Papers, 1905–1905 (National Archives Identifier: 566641)
    Decisions of the Board of Special Inquiry, 1893–1909 (National Archives Identifier: 567441)

    Cases

    • Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1895–1952 (National Archives Identifier: 567443)
      • Name index is available on M1144 microfilm publication finding aid (National Archives Identifier: 285752033).

    Correspondence

    • Letters Sent Pertaining to Chinese Immigrants, June 1895–December 1903 (National Archives Identifier: 566870)
    • Letters Sent Concerning Chinese Immigrants, January 1904–December 1911 (National Archives Identifier: 566900)

    Registers

    • Register of Chinese Cases, 1897–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 567442)

    Reports and Diaries

    • Diaries Relating to Chinese Cases, 1903–1904 (National Archives Identifier: 567444)
    • Reports of Boarding Officers of Vessels with Chinese Crews, 1912–1915 (National Archives Identifier: 567445)
    • Requests for Investigations of Chinese Desiring to Leave the United States, 1895–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 567446)
    • Daily Reports of Chinese Cases Investigated, 1909–1911 (National Archives Identifier: 567690)

    Baltimore District Office (District 5)
    Correspondence Regarding Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1904–1940 (National Archives Identifier: 569674)

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)
    Los Angeles Collection District

    Letters Sent, November 22, 1882–August 16, 1918 (National Archives Identifier: 5634336)
    Incoming Correspondence, September 18, 1883–May 14, 1908 (National Archives Identifier: 5634351)

    San Diego Collection District
    Letters Sent, October 14, 1885–June 29, 1909 (National Archives Identifier: 5604092)
    General Correspondence Sent, May 5, 1885–June 16, 1909 (National Archives Identifier: 5604086)
    General Correspondence Received, September 1, 1894–December 17, 1909 (National Archives Identifier: 5605089
    Letters Received from the Treasury Department, January 12, 1880–November 22, 1909 (National Archives Identifier: 5605115)
    Letters Sent Regarding the Revenue Cutter Service, May 22, 1894–January 18, 1913 (National Archives Identifier: 5604094)

    San Diego Collection District, Calexico (California) Office
    Outgoing Correspondence, November 22, 1904–March 23, 1916 (National Archives Identifier: 5605394)
    Incoming Correspondence Regarding Smuggling, July 25, 1914–May 23, 1922 (National Archives Identifier: 5605403)

    San Diego Collection District, Campo (California) Office
    General Correspondence, 1919–1957 (National Archives Identifier: 5607246)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    Los Angeles District Office

    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, ca. 1893–ca. 1945 (National Archives Identifier: 5830001)
    Investigations of Alien Applications for Reentry Permits, 1929–ca. 1933 (National Archives Identifier: 6210615)

    Los Angeles Local Office
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1932–1950 (National Archives Identifier: 5831054)
    Descriptions of Chinese Deportees, 1911–1922 (National Archives Identifier: 6210616)

    Calexico (California) Local Office
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1919–1968 (National Archives Identifier: 5831059)

    San Diego (California) Local Office (includes Bakersfield)
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1911–1976 (National Archives Identifier: 295389)

    San Pedro (California) Local Office
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1935–1965 (National Archives Identifier: 5831056)

    Nogales (Arizona) Local Office
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1922–1965 (National Archives Identifier: 5831061)

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)
    San Francisco Collection District

    Report by the Surveyor on the Enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Act, 1885 (National Archives Identifier: 2645491)
    Copies of Letters Sent by the Collector to the Secretary of the Treasury, June 1, 1861–October 5, 1912 (National Archives Identifier: 37210061)
    Letters Received by the Collector from the Office of the Secretary of the Treasury, March 24, 1851–September 17, 1912 (National Archives Identifier: 1058504)
    Non-Departmental Letters Received by the Collector, 1867–1912 (National Archives Identifier: 29007760)

    • Partially indexed by Index to Local and Official Letters Received, 1904–1912 (National Archives Identifier: 63530123)

    Copies of Non-Departmental Letters Sent by the Collector and the Deputy Collector, June 11, 1861–January 1918 (National Archives Identifier: 29007754)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    San Francisco District Office

    Administrative Files, 1894–1941 (National Archives Identifier: 44129572)
    Registers of Certificates of Identity, June 14, 1909–January 19, 1939 (National Archives Identifier: 5708749)
    Duplicate Certificates of Identity, 1908–1943 (National Archives Identifier: 1560125)
    Immigration Arrival Investigation Case Files, 1884–1944 (National Archives Identifier: 296445)
    Application Case File of Natives Bringing Foreign-Born Dependents to the United States (12023 Files), 1941–1941 (National Archives Identifier: 44165486)
    Case Files of Investigations Not Resulting in Warrant Proceedings (12016 Files), 1912–1944 (National Archives Identifier: 296429)
    Deportation Investigation Case Files (12020 Files), 1930–1950 (National Archives Identifier: 1566705)
    Enemy Alien Deportation Case Files (12044 Files), 1942–1948 (National Archives Identifier: 43434825)
    Immigration "Chinese (Business) Partnership" Investigation Case Files, 1894–1944 (National Archives Identifier: 296496)
    Passport Application Case File (12034 Files), 1916–1916 (National Archives Identifier: 44165485)
    Voluntary Deportation Case Files (12039 Files), 1934–1936 (National Archives Identifier: 4658054)
    Immigration and Deportation Investigation Case Files (1300 Files), July 1, 1944–December 31, 1954 (National Archives Identifier: 1566751)

    Return Application Case Files

    • Return Certificate Application Case Files of Chinese Americans (9170 Files), 1903–1912 (National Archives Identifier: 1573271)
    • Return Certificate Application Case Files of Chinese Laborers (9180 Files), 1903–1912 (National Archives Identifier: 1573279)
    • Return Certificate Application Case Files of Chinese Merchants, Students, Teachers, and Clergy (9190 Files), 1903–1913 (National Archives Identifier: 1573287)
    • Return Certificate Application Case Files of Chinese Americans and Chinese Nationals, February 8, 1894–January 23, 1913 (National Archives Identifier: 1566759)
    • Return Certificate Application Case Files of Chinese Departing (12017 Files), December 14, 1912–December 3, 1943 (National Archives Identifier: 296477)

    Fresno Sub-Office
    Immigration and Deportation Investigation Case Files (1301 Files), 1944–1955 (National Archives Identifier: 4658049)

    Oakland Sub-Office
    Immigration and Deportation Investigation Case Files (1303 Files), 1944–1955 (National Archives Identifier: 4658050)

    Sacramento Sub-Office
    Immigration and Deportation Investigation Case Files (1305 Files), 1944–1955 (National Archives Identifier: 4658051)

    Salinas Sub-Office
    Immigration and Deportation Investigation Case Files (1308 Files), 1944–1955 (National Archives Identifier: 4658053)

    Stockton Sub-Office
    Immigration and Deportation Investigation Case Files (1307 Files), 1944–1955 (National Archives Identifier: 4658052)    

    Honolulu District Office (also as a Sub-Office of San Francisco)
    Copies of Letters Sent, August 15, 1903–May 12, 1904 (National Archives Identifier: 1560896)
    Index to Immigration Investigation Case Files, 1985–1986 (National Archives Identifier: 2902860)
    Filipino Contract Worker Certificates of Identity, 1946 (National Archives Identifier: 241089565)
    Index to Filipino Contract Worker Certificates of Identity, 1946 (National Archives Identifier: 245256783)
    Registers of Filipino Contract Workers, 1946 (National Archives Identifier: 245256784)

    Certificates of Identity and Residence

    • Index to Certificates of Identity, 1908–1912 (National Archives Identifier: 1560815)
    • Application Case Files for Replacement Certificates of Identity (4391 Files), 1920–1942 (National Archives Identifier: 628455)    
    • Application Case Files for Replacement Certificates of Residence (4390 Files), 1921–1938 (National Archives Identifier: 628454)    
    • Duplicate Chinese Certificates of Residence, June 13, 1901 (National Archives Identifier: 257664617)

    Investigations and Applications Case Files

    • Chinese Immigration Case Files (C-Files), 1903–1915 (National Archives Identifier: 594779)
    • Application Case Files for Admission as Children of Hawaiian-Born United States Citizens of Chinese Descent (4386 Files), 1916–1926 (National Archives Identifier: 628305)
    • Application Case Files for Admission as Chinese Students, Teachers, and Travelers (4387 Files), 1916–1942 (National Archives Identifier: 628306)
    • Application Case Files for Admission as Students, Teachers, and Clergy (4379 Files), 1917–1938 (National Archives Identifier: 628297)
    • Application Case Files for Admission as the Children of Chinese Merchants, Teachers, and Clergy (4385), 1913–1938 (National Archives Identifier: 628304)
    • Application Case Files for Admission as United States Citizens of Non-Chinese Descent (4368 Files), 1924–1941 (National Archives Identifier: 628295)
    • Application Case Files for Admission as Wives and Children of Chinese Americans Naturalized under the Hawaiian Kingdom and Return Certificate Application Case Files of Chinese Americans Naturalized under the Hawaiian Kingdom (4393 Files), 1919–1925 (National Archives Identifier: 628458)    
    • Application Case Files for Admission as Wives of Chinese Merchants, Teachers, and Clergy (4383 Files), 1916–1939 (National Archives Identifier: 628301)
    • Application Case Files for Admission as Wives of United States Citizens of Chinese Descent (4384 Files), 1916–1940 (National Archives Identifier: 628303)
    • Application Case Files of American Citizens of Chinese Ancestry for Return Certificates and of Chinese-Born United States Citizens for Admission to Hawai’i (4382 Files), 1916–1942 (National Archives Identifier: 628300)
    • Application Case Files For Admission as Wives And Children of Japanese and Korean Clergy (4514), 1927–1946 (National Archives Identifier: 285094065)
    • Immigration Investigative Case Files, 1924–1942 (National Archives Identifier: 285094066)
    • Chinese Merchant Return Certificate Application Case Files (4381 Files), 1912–1934 (National Archives Identifier: 628299)
    • Deportation Case Files (4280 Files), 1913–1944 (National Archives Identifier: 628184)
    • Return Certificate Application Case Files of Lawfully-Domiciled Chinese Laborers (4380 Files), 1916–1938 (National Archives Identifier: 628298)
    • Statements of Returning United States Citizens of Chinese Ancestry, October 17, 1946–February 28, 1959 (National Archives Identifier: 1557170)
    • Visa Application Case Files of Chinese Merchants, Students, Teachers, Travelers, and Clergy Seeking Admission to the Continental United States from Hawai’i (4388 Files), 1917–1942 (National Archives Identifier: 628453)    
    • Immigration and Deportation Investigation Case Files (1302/1700 Files), July 8, 1944–December 31, 1954 (National Archives Identifier: 628483)

    Board of Special Inquiry

    • Board of Special Inquiry Case Files, 1925–1929 (National Archives Identifier: 2912190)
    • Appeal Case Files of Japanese and Korean Aliens Denied Entry by Boards of Special Inquiry (4395 Files), 1917–1940 (National Archives Identifier: 628461)
    • Transcripts of Board of Special Inquiry Hearings for Chinese Applying for Admission, May 20, 1904–April 15, 1924 (National Archives Identifier: 628481)

    Citizenship Certificates and Applications

    • Duplicate Hawaiian Islands Certificates of Citizenship, 1926–1955 (National Archives Identifier: 1565934)    
    • Hawaiian Islands Certificate of Citizenship Application Case Files (4333 Files), 1924–1941 (National Archives Identifier: 628294)
    • Case Files of Chinese American Applicants for Certificates of Citizenship in the Hawaiian Islands (4500 Files), 1924–1942 (National Archives Identifier: 628463)
    • Case Files of Filipino American Applicants for Certificates of Citizenship in the Hawaiian Islands (4800A Files), 1934–1944 (National Archives Identifier: 628477)

    Registers

    • Register of Chinese Citizens and U. S. Citizens of Chinese Ancestry Departing from and Returning to Honolulu, 1901–1910 (National Archives Identifier: 2857303)
    • Register of Chinese Confession Program Investigation Case Files, 1957–1968 (National Archives Identifier: 1565956)
    • Register of Japanese Arrivals and Register of Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans Detained for Boards of Special Inquiry, June 27, 1899–June 20, 1905 (National Archives Identifier: 2848804)
    • Register of Passengers Detained at the Quarantine Station, January 1, 1927–July 4, 1929 (National Archives Identifier: 83740174)
    • Registers of Arrival and Disposition of Chinese Persons, December 31, 1899–December 17, 1941 (National Archives Identifier: 2848842)
    • Registers of Arrivals of Japanese Free People, December 4, 1898–June 12, 1900 (National Archives Identifier: 2848352)

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)
    Puget Sound Collection District

    Correspondence, 1852–1916 (National Archives Identifier: 2524829)
    Registers of Chinese Laborers Departing from the United States, 1882–1888 (National Archives Identifier: 2569308)
    Records of A.L. Blake, 1881–1887 (National Archives Identifier: 2825293)
    Coded Administrative Files, 1911–1925 (National Archives Identifier: 2387553)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    Seattle District Office

    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1892–1920 (National Archives Identifier: 298968)
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1895–1943 (National Archives Identifier: 298951)
    Chinese Passenger Arrival and Disposition Volumes, July 1, 1903–June 23, 1944 (National Archives Identifier: 646080)

    Port Townsend (Washington) Port of Entry
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1895–1927 (National Archives Identifier: 1174261)

    Sumas (Washington) Port of Entry
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1900–1920 (National Archives Identifier: 561434)

    Helena (Montana) Port of Entry
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1895–1941 (National Archives Identifier: 561435)

    • Partially indexed, ca. 1899–ca. 1933 (National Archives Identifier: 4076494)

    Portal (North Dakota) Port of Entry
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1905–1925 (National Archives Identifier: 567663)

    Vancouver (BC, Canada) Port of Entry
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1905–1925 (National Archives Identifier: 566588)

    Portland District Office 
    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1891–1913 (National Archives Identifier: 567252)

    • Microfilm publication M1638, digitized in National Archives Identifier: 4486342. Refused case files were not filmed even though some persons in this category were later admitted.

    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, 1893–1948 (National Archives Identifier: 567253)
    Testimonies of Witnesses for Chinese Applicants for Admission, 1893–1894 (National Archives Identifier: 2642009)
    Chinese Business Directories, 1896–1900 (National Archives Identifier: 2642169)
    Chinese Partnership Books, 1895–1926 (National Archives Identifier: 2642176)
    Chinese Arrest Book, 1903–1941 (National Archives Identifier: 2642150)
    Registers of Departing Laborers and Merchants, 1882–1893 (National Archives Identifier: 2642185)
    Lists of Chinese Applications for Admission, 1893–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 2642127)
    Lists of Chinese Arriving in Oregon, 1893–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 2642134)
    Examinations of Arriving Passengers, 1894–1898 (National Archives Identifier: 2643391)
    Registers of Aliens in Oregon, 1942 (National Archives Identifier: 2642512). Lists of names of registered aliens from Italy, Germany, and Japan
    Japanese Landing Books, 1893–1899 (National Archives Identifier: 2642161)
    Laborer Certificates Issued, 1896–1899 (National Archives Identifier: 2642182)
    Index to Witnesses for Chinese Passengers on the S.S. Haytien Republic, 1893–1899 (National Archives Identifier: 2642010)

    U.S. Customs Service (Record Group 36)
    Headquarters

    Indexes to Case Files and Correspondence Files, 1880–1938 (National Archives Identifier: 7581037)

    • Case Files, 1880–1901 (National Archives Identifier: 2125223)
    • Case Files, 1902–1938 (National Archives Identifier: 2125226)
    • Correspondence, 1909–1938 (National Archives Identifier: 2125229)

    Index to Correspondence, 1900–1952 (National Archives Identifier: 7541365)
    Index to Case Files and Related Correspondence of Special Agents, 1903–1915 (National Archives Identifier: 3725245)

    • Case Files and Related Correspondence of Special Agents, 1833–1915 (National Archives Identifier: 2125234)

    Records of Affidavits Relating to Chinese Applicants for Admission to the United States, July 2, 1894 (National Archives Identifier: 4477388)
    Correspondence Relating to Opium Trafficking, 1911–1915 (National Archives Identifier: 7562968)

    New York Collection District
    Records of Affidavits Relating to Chinese Applicants for Admission to the United States, July 2, 1894 (National Archives Identifier: 4477388)

    Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85)
    Headquarters

    Segregated Chinese files

    • Chinese Division Files, 1914–1921 (National Archives Identifier: 4748009
    • Chinese General Correspondence, 1898–1911 (National Archives Identifier: 4708297
      • Registers of Chinese Letters Received, 1898–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 4708595
      • Cross Reference Index to Subject and Policy Files, 1908–1957 (National Archives Identifier: 4708896)
      • Name Index, ca. 1893–ca. 1932 (National Archives Identifier: 4709010)
    • Chinese Letters Sent, June 9, 1900–August 19, 1908 (National Archives Identifier: 4735414)
    • Chinese Smuggling Files, 1914–ca. 1921 (National Archives Identifier: 4739316)
    • Customs Case Files Related to Chinese Immigration, 1877–1891 (National Archives Identifier: 4735867)
    • Letters Sent and Received by the Chinese Inspector in Charge, Collector of Customs, and Commissioner of Immigration Relating to Chinese Immigration Matters, 1891–1924 (National Archives Identifier: 5720502)
    • Statistical Records of Arrests of Chinese on Charges of Being in the United States in Violation of the Law, 1905–1907 (National Archives Identifier: 4757895)
    • Records of Chinese Deportations, 1902–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 4757900)
    • Records of Chinese Census for the Districts of Montana and Idaho, 1894–1896 (National Archives Identifier: 4757904)
    • Selected Letters Sent among the Segregated Chinese Records, 1906–1909 (National Archives Identifier: 5720360)
    • Alien Registration File of Edward Bing Kan, August 29, 1940–February 28, 1944 (National Archives Identifier: 5721387)

    Records related to Chinese Certificates of Residence

    • Applications for Duplicate Certificates of Residence, 1893–1920 (National Archives Identifier: 4750261)
    • Chronological Records Relating to Chinese Certificates of Residence, 1892–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 4750744)
    • Selected Records Relating to Chinese Certificates of Residence, 1892–1903 (National Archives Identifier: 4757273)
    • Numerical Records Relating to Chinese Certificates of Residence, 1895–1925 (National Archives Identifier: 4752898)

    General Files

    • Subject and Policy Files, 1906–1957 (National Archives Identifier: 559947)
    • Cross Reference Index to Subject and Policy Files, 1908–ca. 1957 (National Archives Identifier: 4708896)
      • Each card includes the Chinese General Correspondence file number (National Archives Identifier: 4708297) and the Subject and Policy File Number (National Archives Identifier: 559947)
    • Central Office General Subject Files, 1947–1965 (National Archives Identifier: 22344707)
    • Central Office Subject Files, 1957–1975 (National Archives Identifier: 1273013)

    Explore Further

    Blogs and Articles

    Prologue magazine: “Broken Blossoms,” 2016

    Prologue magazine: “Attachments: Faces and Stories from America's Gates,” 2012

    Prologue magazine: “An Alleged Wife: One Immigrant in the Chinese Exclusion Era,” 2004

    Prologue magazine: “Race, Nationality, and Reality,” 2002

    Pieces of History blog: “AAPI Exclusion and the Case of Wong Kim Ark," 2024

    Pieces of History blog: “Chinese Exclusion and the 1899 National Export Exposition,” 2021

    Pieces of History blog: “Navigating the Law,” 2020

    Pieces of History blog: “19th Amendment at 100: Mabel Ping-Hua Lee,” 2020

    Pieces of History blog : “Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files and the USCIS Master Index,” 2017

    AOTUS blog: “Immigration Records Illuminate the Story of Angel Island,” 2010

    National Archives News: “Chinese American Actress’s Story Illustrates ‘Othering’ of Immigrants,” 2021

    Education Updates blog: “Questioning Chinese Exclusion,” 2021

    Education Updates blog: “Primary Sources Show How the Chinese Exclusion Act was Applied,” 2015

    Education Updates blog: “Digitizing Chinese Immigration in Our New Innovation Hub,” 2015

    The Text Message blog: "Sau Ung Loo Chan, An Advocate for American Citizenship and Immigrant Rights," 2024

    The Text Message blog: “Bringing the Past to Light through the Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files,” 2021

    Archives Library Information Center (ALIC): Online Databases, including onsite access to ProQuest, “Immigration: Records of the INS, 1880–1930”

    History Hub: “Chinese American Identification Papers" (7-part blog series)

    History Hub: “Honolulu INS Office Filing System

    History Hub: “San Francisco INS Office Records

    Citizen Archivist Mission

    Chinese Heritage

    Citizen Archivist Mission Chinese Heritage Records

    Help us transcribe and tag records related to the Chinese Exclusion Era. We need your help transcribing these immigration records and tagging very specific details that will help provide greater access to these records. 

    Join the mission

    Educator Resources

    DocsTeach

    Hop Wo Chong and Company

    Our Documented Rights

    Village Map

    Public Programs

    Oh, the Stories They Tell: Chinese Exclusion Acts
    Case Files at the National Archives (2017 May 10)

     

    Immigration Records & Privacy, (2015 Dec. 10)

    Immigration: Barriers and Access, 2016
     

     

    Asian Migration and the Hidden History of
    Exclusion at Ellis Island, August 12, 2022

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