What is an alien case file?

+4 votes
I just researched and wrote a bio for someone who emigrated to the United States in 1937 to escape persecution that was building up to the Holocaust.  One of the sources I found is a record of an alien case file dated 1934.

What, exactly, is this and for what reasons might it be created?  Please see the note about it that I included in the profile.

THANX much!!!
WikiTree profile: Cerri Bierhoff
in Genealogy Help by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (913k points)

4 Answers

+3 votes
I've got an alien case file I'm sure since for a long while I had an Alien Registration Number. My guess is that the file is opened by Immigration when you first apply for an entry permit.
by Rosemary Jones G2G6 Pilot (237k points)
+3 votes
Just a guess, but maybe 1934 was when she/they first applied to emigrate?  Perhaps an alien was anyone who wasn't a US citizen or anyone who applied to emigrate from a non-English speaking background?
by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (482k points)

THANX - I like your guess - that makes a lot of sense, but ...

I have written over 100 bios for German Jews (all from the same gedcom that was abandoned here immediately after upload) who emigrated to the United States in the late 1930's and early 1940's and this is the first time I have come across this kind of record.  Cerri emigrated with her husband, and daughter, neither of whom has an alien case file record.  I looked it up on the government archives site and it said that these files were created after 1940, yet Cerri's is dated 1934.

This is from Ancestry.com 

One provision of the Alien Registration Act of 1940 (also known as the Smith Act) required aliens aged 14 and older living in or entering the United States to register and be fingerprinted. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)—now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)—drew up the Alien Registration form AR-2 to register aliens beginning in 1940. 

The 1 July 1934 date on Cerri's file is her immigration date, and there is a record of a Carry Bierhoff, arriving in New York on 20 July 1934.  The person is the right age, and also born in Bergen, Germany, but she isn't accompanied by any other family - the image is here


Guessing again - there could be a number of reasons why she might attempt to emigrate by herself first, or perhaps she was in reality just visiting her brother?  I'm not sure what the Transit status next to her name means - was she going on elsewhere?  Nor the NI 27?



Thank you so much!  I had missed finding that immigration record, probably because her name is spelled Carry, so it didn't show up on my first search for Cerri.  Since I did find the 1937 immigration record for Cerri, it never occurred to me to look for more.  I just looked closer at the 1937 record and see that the fact that she visited in the US for 4 weeks in 1934 is in there.

This still leaves the puzzle of why there would be an alien case file for her from the 1934 visit when they didn't start those until 1940, which was well after her permanent arrival in 1937.  Also, many of the bios I have worked on for other German immigrants were after 1940 and I have never before found any alien case file for any others.  Cerri did travel (or reside in) Brazil in 1967, so perhaps when she returned to the US from there (I don't have a record of that entry) that was when the alien case file was created and picked up all her prior entries.  Still, though, some of the others have traveled outside the US and returned in later years - some several times, without a record of an alien case file showing up at family search.
I would interpret the requirement of the Alien Registration Act, that anyone who was already living in the USA in 1940 (but who wasn't naturalised) or anyone who arrived on or after that date would have to complete the Form.  The form then would have asked her when she arrived (or first visited) and that's when she would have entered 1934.

I'm not sure why you have never come across one of these forms before.  Is it possible her husband was naturalised before 1940?  Their daughter may have been too young (they had to be 14 or older)?
I'm no authority on this, but I thought you had to be here 3 years before you could become a citizen.  If that is correct, then neither of them could have been naturalized before July of 1940.  Unfortunately, almost all of the naturalization records that I have found for all the bios I have done do not have a date.  In most cases, they aren't even really naturalization records - they are "declarations of intent to become a US citizen".  Only a handful of them are records of actually becoming a citizen.

Although most of the Holocaust related immigrations took place int he late 1930's, there is a sizable number that took place in the 1940's, so it remains a puzzle why I have never encountered an alien case file before.
+3 votes

I don't like guessing (if I can help it).

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Genealogy Program

by Rob Ton G2G6 Pilot (275k points)


I'm with you about the guessing.  That link is where I saw:

Immigrant Files, (A-Files) are the individual alien case files, which became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944. A-numbers ranging up to approximately 6 million were issued to aliens and immigrants within or entering the United States between 1940 and 1945.  The 6 million and 7 million series of A-numbers were issued between circa 1944 and May 1, 1951.

That's why I couldn't understand why she had an alien case file in 1934.

Thank you! You're link is really helpful!

0 votes
Hello, please go to the UCIS website and request a genealogy report.

You have a case# or A-Legacy #

Helpful info would be when the immigrant landed? Port of landing? etc.

Many German immigrants landed at NYC
by Adrian Gruber G2G Crew (470 points)

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