How to Get a Copy of Your Immigration File

foia request for immigration fileThe Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows you to obtain copies of the records and documents in your alien file (immigration file). As a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may also request the immigration records of other people (provided that person consents to the search). You may obtain a complete copy of the alien file or obtain specific documents in a file.

An alien file, commonly known as an A-file, is the collection of documents that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains for non-citizens. It typically contains all of the official files related to immigration status, citizenship, or relief, and includes both documents submitted by the non-citizen as well as any investigations, statements, correspondence, and memoranda created by the agencies. It also may include other identifying documents, such as birth certificates.

 

Obtaining an Immigration File for an Existing Case

This is a great way for immigrants to obtain a complete file of documents if you’ve lost some of the important papers provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (or former INS). FOIA provides mandatory access to your own A-file. FOIA requests can be a very valuable tool when an applicant’s history matters to the success of an application, such as in seeking naturalization. This right even extends to individuals where removability from the United States is in process. For example, it might be necessary to see what evidence the government holds for an individual in removal proceedings. See Dent v. Holder.

Obtaining an Immigration File to Document Family Genealogy

genealogy search for immigration file

Using a FOIA request to obtain an immigration file is also a fantastic way for families to gather genealogical information about family history. Family members can obtain copies of the immigration documents that name a great grandparent when he or she initially migrated to the United States. By capturing the precious details, people can get a deeper understanding of their family history.

How to Request an Immigration File

Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request, is used to request an immigration file from USCIS. The application and instructions are available on the USCIS website. Although you may file on your own, many people depend on an attorney or service like CitizenPath to prepare the paperwork. CitizenPath provides simple, step-by-step guidance through Form G-639 so that you can file the request with accurate information and avoid delays. We also guarantee the USCIS will accept the application. No credit card or sign up is required to try it. Learn more.

FOIA Request Examples

The are a variety of reasons one might file a FOIA request. Here are some example scenarios and how the records should be requested:

  • Example 1: I lost a copy of the I-485 petition that I filed several years ago. Now I need some information on that petition. How can I get a copy?
    File Form G-639 with a request for any all copies of I-485 petitions that include your name and/or A-number.

  • Example 2: My sister was adopted from Korea in 1983, and I want to learn more about her family history. How can I get the details of her immigration to the United States?
    File Form G-639 with a request for your sister’s complete alien file and a specific request for any and all copies of records that include her name.

  • Example 3: I overstayed my visa, and now I am in removal proceedings. How can I find out what information USCIS has on me? I want to know this information to improve my case.
    File Form G-639 with a request for your complete alien file.

  • Example 4: I need to establish my grandfather’s U.S. citizenship to gain my own citizenship through acquisition. He immigrated from the Philippines in the 1950s. How can I get a proof that my grandfather became a naturalized U.S. citizen?
    File Form G-639 with a request for your grandfather’s complete alien file and a specific request for any and all copies of records related to his naturalization.

Cost to File G-639, FOIA Request

There is no cost to file Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request. Although you will consent to paying up to $25 when filing the form, no money is due at the time you file. Further, most searches do not result in a charge to the requester. CitizenPath will help you prepare Form G-639 for a very affordable fee. No credit card or sign up is required to try it. Learn more.

Additional FOIA Resources

Types of Records that Can Be Obtained
Freedom of Information Request Guide
Start G-639 FOIA Request Now