The following message was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:
Two years ago the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS), formerly called the INS, proposed rules to establish a fee-for-service genealogy program. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on May 15, 2008. You may view/download the final rule at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-10651.pdf. The final rule goes into effect on August 13, 2008.
The reason for the rule was to streamline and improve the process for acquiring genealogically relevant historical records of deceased individuals. Due to the demand for documents which created a backlog, requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) took months if not years to complete.
As a result of the comments made to the proposed rule the amount per index or record/file request (from a microfilm) will be $20 and $35 for a textual record. The original proposal was a range of $16-$45 for an index search and $16 to $45 for a record/file microfilm request and $26 to $55 for a copy of a textual document.
The reason the USCIS must charge for the documents and any search for the records is due to other regulations by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB rule form 1993) all government offices are required that user fees recover the full cost of services provided. USCIS is also mandated to charge a fee to recover the full costs or providing research and information due to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The types of historical records available under the new program are: - Naturalization certificate files(C-files) from September 27, 1906-April 1, 1956 (from all federal, state, municipal courts and more); - Microfilmed alien registration forms from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944; - Visa files from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944; - Registry files from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944; - Alien files numbered below 8 million and dated prior to May 1,1951;
More information on each of these is contained in the final rule.
To request records under this new program, a special form must be used: Form G-1041 for index or Form G 1041A for records request. I did not find the new forms posted as yet to the USCIS website. Once the program begins, requests may be submitted electronically on the electronic forms through its site http://www.USCIS.gov. When requests are made online then payment form used MUST be a credit card.
Information that must be contained on the form is included in the new rule. When submitting a written request, the only form of payment accepted is a cashier's check or money order in the exact amount. As genealogical request information may only be obtained on deceased individuals, the subject is presumed dead if their birth date is over 100 years old. For those less than 100 information (primary or secondary document- such as death record, published obituary, etc) must be provided to the satisfaction of the USCIS that the individual is indeed deceased.
Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS and Chairperson,
Public Records Access Monitoring Committee