As part of your ancestry research, you may desire, or possibly even require, official documentation from the United States government on your ancestors. Many times these documents may not have been indexed by a prior researcher or copied to microfiche, or they may be far more extensive than what is already available online or in other collections.
Outside of ordinary ancestry research, if you are filing for 'Jure Sanguinis', Italian citizenship by descent, the Italian government will require official U.S. documentation as part of your legal filings, and you'll have to submit actual official documentation, not simply copies that you may find online through ancestry research sites, as part of the process for obtaining your dual citizenship and that Italian passport.
From their website:
( https://www.uscis.gov/records/genealogy )
"The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants."
Documentation you may find (click the file types for more details):
Many times these documents will have multiple different photographs previously unpublished and/or unknown to you. They may be of poor quality, but they still can be a significant find.
Fortunately, this program is available via an online portal. The process is fairly straight forward, although being government, it's still a bit more difficult, expensive, and time consuming than one would like.
USCIS Genealogy Request Process
Step 1: File an Index Search Request - $65
You must file a request for each individual you are researching, you cannot submit search requests for families, couples, etc.
USCIS will have you submit a form with as much identifying information about your ancestor as you have available.
Once you enter the request information, you will be presented with an option to submit payment. The fee is $65 to execute the search request per person/immigrant.
Keep in mind, this is simply the cost to do the search only. USCIS may find nothing at all on your requested search subject, and there is a separate cost for obtaining the records located!
You will be given an opportunity to set a security question/answer as part of your form submission. Make sure you save this information, you will need it for future steps
Step 2: Wait for your search results
After submitting payment, you will receive an email at the address you supplied with the information you submitted in the request form and a system generated Case ID associated with that search request. You will need this Case ID as well as your security question/answer for future steps.
USCIS will contact you via email if there is any clarification needed on the data submitted.
It should take about 2-4 weeks to get the search results from USCIS
Step 3: File a Records Request - $65
When you receive your search results from Step 2, USCIS will tell you if there are records available that match your submitted search. If they do not find anything, your research with them on this immigrant is complete.
If they do find records, their emailed letter to you will list the type of records they located, the internal File Number assigned (which you will need if you lost your information from Step 1), as well as the fee to get copies of these records. In most cases it should be $65 for the File, but there may be cases that have more than one file available. You can now submit a Records Request to obtain copies of these documents.
There are two options; option one is to submit your request using your Case ID from Step 1, which will also require your security question/answer.
Option two is to submit without your Case ID (or if you forgot your security question/answer), but this will require the internal File Number emailed to you in response to your search request.
Once you submit payment for your file request, the processing time should take about 30 days.
What You'll Receive:
You'll be receiving photocopies of the paperwork they have on file, not the original documents.
Don't be surprised if the visibility on the documentation is poor, the text off-center, sideways, or off the page, and many pages will usually have text overlaid 'Best Copy Available' on them, simply indicating the quality of the original documentation on file is poor, ensuring you that they didn't hastily scan your paperwork and shove it in the mail.
Don't forget to promptly re-digitize these for safekeeping! And put them out on the genealogy websites...but pay attention to record naming conventions, dates, locations, and other factual details that will help other researchers actually find the data itself. Don't just add them to the web, fill out the record metadata on the site you're using!
Monetary - $65 per search request, an additional $65 per file bundle
Time - about 14-30 days per search request, an additional 30 per file request
(USCIS will process requests simultaneously, so if you submit multiple search requests or records requests, they will all process at the same time)