U.S. Naturalization and Citizenship Records

Learn how to locate naturalization, citizenship and other documents related to US residency
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U.S. naturalization records document the process whereby an individual born in another country (an "alien") is granted citizenship in the United States. Although the details and requirements have changed over the years, the naturalization process generally consists of three major steps: 1) the filing of a declaration of intent or "first papers," and 2) the petition for naturalization or "second papers" or "final papers," and 3) the granting of citizenship or "certificate of naturalization."

Location: Naturalization records are available for all U.S. states and territories.

Time Period: March 1790 to the present

What Can I Learn From Naturalization Records?

The Naturalization Act of 1906 required naturalization courts to begin using standard naturalization forms for the first time and the newly created Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization to begin keeping duplicate copies of all naturalization records. Post-1906 naturalization records are generally the most useful for genealogists. Prior to 1906, naturalization documents were not standardized and the earliest naturalization records often include little information beyond the individual's name, location, arrival year, and country of origin.

U.S. Naturalization Records from 27 September 1906 - 31 March 1956:
Beginning 27 September 1906, naturalization courts across the U.S. were required to forward duplicate copies of Declarations of Intention, Petitions for Naturalization, and Certificates of Naturalization to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Washington, D.C.

Between 27 September 1906 and 31 March 1956, the Federal Naturalization Service filed these copies together in packets known as C-Files. Information that you might expect to find in post-1906 U.S. C-Files includes:

  • name of applicant
  • current address
  • occupation
  • birthplace or nationality
  • birth date or age
  • marital status
  • name, age, and birthplace of spouse
  • names, ages, and birthplaces of children
  • date and port of emigration (departure)
  • date and port of immigration (arrival)
  • name of ship or mode of entry
  • town or court where the naturalization occurred
  • names, addresses, and occupations of witnesses
  • physical description and photo of immigrant
  • immigrant's signature
  • additional documentation such as evidence of a name change

Pre-1906 U.S. Naturalization Records
Prior to 1906, any "court of record"—municipal, county, district, state, or Federal court—could grant U.S. citizenship. Information included on pre-1906 naturalization records varies widely from state to state since no federal standards existed at the time. Most pre-1906 US naturalization records document at least the immigrant's name, country of origin, arrival date, and port of arrival.

** See U.S. Naturalization & Citizenship Records for an in-depth tutorial on the naturalization process in the United States, including the types of records which were generated, and exceptions to the naturalization rule for married women and minor children.
 

Where Can I Find Naturalization Records?

Depending upon the location and time period of the naturalization, naturalization records may be located at the local or county court, in a state or regional archives facility, at the National Archives, or through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Some naturalization indexes and digitized copies of original naturalization records are available online.

** See Where Can I Find Naturalization Records in-depth details on where to locate U.S. naturalization records and how to request copies of these records, as well as websites and databases where you can access them online.

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Powell, Kimberly. "U.S. Naturalization and Citizenship Records." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/us-naturalization-and-citizenship-records-1420674. Powell, Kimberly. (2017, March 3). U.S. Naturalization and Citizenship Records. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/us-naturalization-and-citizenship-records-1420674 Powell, Kimberly. "U.S. Naturalization and Citizenship Records." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/us-naturalization-and-citizenship-records-1420674 (accessed November 19, 2017).