20 May 2008

CIS: Fee-for-service genealogy program

Jan Meisels Allen is the Public Records Access Monitoring Committee chair and board member of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. She does a great job in keeping us informed.

Her latest notice is on the US Citizenship and Immigration Service's fee-for-service genealogy program, proposed two years ago. On May 15, the final rule was published and will become effective August 13. View it here.

I took a look at the file, which covers five of the seven pages in the link. It is an interesting document as to comments received from individuals and organizations, the history and numbers of genealogical requests and more. I recommend reading it.

Jan writes:

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.

Historical records under the new program are:

Naturalization certificate files(C-files), September 27, 1906-April 1, 1956 (from federal, state, municipal courts and more);

Microfilmed alien registration forms, August 1, 1940-March 31,1944;
- Visa files, July 1, 1924-March 31, 1944;
- Registry files, March 2, 1929-March 31, 1944;
- Alien files numbered below 8 million, dated prior to May 1,1951;

The final rule has more details on these records.

A special form must be used to request records under this new program (Form
G-1041 for index or Form G 1041A for records request). The forms are not yet posted to the USCIS website. Jan says that once the program begins, requests may be submitted on the site's electronic forms. Online requests must be paid via credit card.

Other details: Written requests can only be paid for by a cashier's check or money order in the exact amount. Because genealogical request information can only be given for deceased individuals, a person is presumed dead if his or her birth date is more than 100 years ago. For more recent birth dates, a primary or secondary document (death record, published obituary, etc) is required to satisfy the USCIS that the individual in question is really deceased.

Thanks, Jan, for keeping us informed about these important matters.

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