Requesting Naturalization Papers from the INS

Dennis Piccirillo's Guide to
Requesting Your Ancestor's
Naturalization Records
From the Immigration and Naturalization Service

The following step by step guide to requesting your ancestor's naturalization records was originally prepared by a Dennis Piccirillo from PIE, one of the Italian list servers distributed over the PIE list server. It has proven invaluable to many North American genealogists struggling to make that critical connection "across the pond" to homes of origin in Europe.

Immigration and Naturalizations are divided in three major record groups. Each record group requires it own research process to locate your ancestor information.

From 1790-1906: Naturalization records are kept in the court where the naturalizations occurred. Some state archives will often have copies of these records. The National Archives has most of these records, but they are not all indexed. First you would need to find out which court (city, county, district, superior, or federal) was handling naturalizations in the particular year. Then write to them. HINT: If your ancestor made a homestead application, then the naturalization papers will be attached. If your ancestor had a passport, the naturalization papers will be with the passport application. Check your local Family History Center Catalog under subject of United States topic of State Department.

From 1906 to 1956:

Instructions to request the Declaration of Intentions and Naturalization papers.

Step 1: Using the 1920 census records information get the citizenship date.

Step 2: Prove you are a direct descendant of the immigrant by using death, birth or marriage certificates.

Step 3: Fill out the Freedom of Information Act Form requesting the Declaration of Intention and naturalization papers.

Step 4: Mail the forms and papers to the INS Freedom of Information Office, 2nd Floor ULLB, 425 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20536.

Step 5: They will bill you for the copies.
Most genealogical FOIA/PA requests will result in no charge (though it is possible if INS locates an unusually large file).

1956-present: The Alien files are refer as A-files. Use the FOIA request form to obtain the all papers from the local District office. If you do not know the local district office, then send the request to the INS office in Washington, DC. They will forward the request to the correct office.

VISA FILES: From July 1, 1924 to April 1, 1944 there are Visa Files indexed by name, DOB and place of birth. Immigrants during this period were required to obtain approval for their immigrant status. If your ancestor had a visa file, then request the form to obtain the original documents. The VISA files contain many original documents that can be gotten on proof of relationship.

The VISA files will be destroyed in 2027.


A normal search will result in your receiving the desired documents in a very few weeks.

Good luck!

Dennis Piccirillo
NJ & Italian Gen Search Svcs

copywrite 1996
[email protected]

This page was last updated on October 11, 1996

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