Q. My grandparents came to the United States in the early 1900s but never became citizens. They died in 1921 and 1950. I have been wondering lately about alien registration. Wasn’t this required yearly? When was it started and are any records available?
A. Aliens were required to register their current addresses and places of employment with the federal government between 1940 and about 1982. The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required aliens to report their address and employment, and to report any change of address immediately. Beginning in 1952, aliens had to report their address annually. Address reporting ended in the 1980s, and only the last or most recent address might remain on file.
You can request these records online from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) Genealogy Program. (The USCIS is the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.) Records for those born more than 100 years ago are available. You can order an index search for $20, which is necessary if you don’t have the file number of the record you need. Then you can request the record for a fee of $20 to $35, depending on the type of record you request.
See the USCIS Genealogy Program website for more information and instructions on making your request.
For those whose ancestors did naturalize, you can learn more about finding and using naturalization records in our Using Naturalization Records 30-minute video class, available in Family Tree Shop.