Thursday, October 27, 2016

Obtaining US Ancestors Immigration Documentation – What You Need to Know

In May, I requested an index search request for $20.00 from the USCIS website.  I’ve always meant to do so but never got around to it.  I had read a blog on Judy Russell’s Legal Genealogist site that mentioned the price may be going up dramatically so I decided the time was now and quickly followed through with the request.
You must complete and index search request ($20.00) if you don’t know the Case ID number.  A Case ID number is needed to request Alien Registration Forms (AR-2) and Naturalization Certificates (C-File) which are an additional $20.00-35.00. I was requesting two index searches, one for each of my maternal grandparents. 
In August, I received a letter in the US mail that provided me with a Case ID number for my grandmother.  The letter referred me to the Department of Homeland Security website so that I could obtain the AR-2 and C-File.  I tried to follow the directions but I was unable to gain access.  Frustrated, I decided to try from different computers as I wasn’t sure if cookie settings were the problem.  After making a number of attempts from my home’s laptop, desktop, Kindle, phone and my work computer I came to the conclusion it wasn’t me. 
The only way to contact the agency is via email.  I was livid when I received a response stating they would respond by December.  Seriously?!  
A survey popped up and I took the time to complete it;  I mentioned the poor customer service access, the long delay between the letter's date (July 8) and receiving it (date stamped August 18), lack of a functional website and that my initial request was for two searches and I only had one returned. I also sent an email to the agency on August 22 because their phones don't work.  Here's the response:

"It is our goal to complete all requests within 90 days of receipt. 
Nevertheless, due to an increased volume of requests we are now answering:
• Index Search Requests (Form G-1041) received in MARCH 2016.
• Record Requests (Form G-1041A) received in FEBRUARY 2016. Please note that pending record requests submitted prior that date are waiting for files or privacy screenings."

Clearly the response isn’t even accurate as I didn’t even request the documents until May and had half of my request returned in August.  

The following day I received this email response:
"Your payment has been submitted to Pay.gov and the details are below. If you have any questions or you wish to cancel this payment, please contact the USCIS Genealogy Program at (866) 259-2349."

I called the number but never could reach anyone.  

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from James Igoe on October 3rd that attached my grandmother’s C-File.  I responded with a thank you and then asked for an update on where my grandfather’s file was.  Here’s the response I received on October 3rd:

"It is our goal to complete all requests within 90 days of receipt. 
Nevertheless, due to an increased volume of requests we are now answering:
• Index Search Requests (Form G-1041) received in MARCH 2016.
• Record Requests (Form G-1041A) received in FEBRUARY 2016. Please note that pending record requests submitted prior that date are waiting for files or privacy screenings."

Sound familiar?!  Between August 22nd and October 3rd the agency had made NO progress with their backlog.    

My advice, if you need to request records, is to do so with out delay cause it's going to be a long, long time before you receive them.

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