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Historical Library

The History Office and Library are temporarily closed to visitors. Staff will continue to respond to e-mailed reference requests:

Our library was founded to track the history and implementation of federal immigration policy from the creation of the Immigration Bureau in 1891 to the activities of USCIS today. Among the library's frequent patrons are scholars, students, journalists, attorneys, and many others with an interest in the history of immigration and nationality law, policy, and agency programs.

The Historical Reference Library does not hold or provide access to any genealogical records.  This service is provided by the USCIS Genealogy Program, which is a fee-based service that provides family historians and other researchers with access to historical immigration and naturalization records. 

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Our Collection 

General Collection

The general collection consists largely of agency publications, reports, handbooks, and other materials documenting agency operations and programs. Included are complete sets of agency annual reports since 1892 and Statistical Yearbooks since 1978. The collection also includes published works on immigration and nationality history and law.


Among the library’s most-used materials are late 20th century agency periodicals.

The following titles are now digitized.  Each individual issue is cataloged.  You can search the catalog or clicking on the title below will give you a list of issues.

The following titles are available in the library in hardcopy:

  • Information Bulletin, 1951-1979;
  • Commissioner’s Communiqué, 1974-2002.


The library’s historical photograph collection depicts agency facilities and operations throughout the country from the 1890’s to the present.

For more information about the USCIS History Office and Library photo collection please contact us at

Video Collection

Our Video collection dates from the 1980’s and cover major changes in immigration legislation, legacy Commissioner’s conferences, training tapes, and a variety of other topics.

For more information on making an appointment to view our video collection at the USCIS Historical Library please contact us at

Vertical Files

These files contain information on various Immigration and Naturalization (INS) topics and are arranged alphabetically, for example, from A-Files (material related to the concept of A-files) to Work Force and Labor programs within the service.

These files also contain numerous Immigration and Naturalization fact sheets, press releases, newspaper clippings, important people files and service projects created under the Department of Justice and INS.

Below is a sample list of topics covered by vertical files. Check our online catalog for further listings.

  • Adjustment of status--United States—Statistics
  • Adopted children--United States
  • Agricultural laborers, Foreign--United States--Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Alien labor certification--United States
  • Aliens--United States—Crime
  • Asylum, Right of--United States
  • Border crossing fees--United States
  • Border Patrol (INS)—History
  • Bracero program--United States—Statistics
  • Chinese—Minnesota
  • Citizenship by parentage--Jus sanguinis--United States
  • Commuters--United States
  • Cubans--United States--Government policy
  • Detention and deportation (INS)--Expedited removals—Statistics
  • Ellis Island Immigration Station (N.Y. and N.J.)
  • Emigration and immigration law--United States—Quotas
  • Employer sanctions--New York (N.Y.)
  • Gangs--United States--Black Dragon
  • Golden Venture (Ship)
  • Hmong (Asian people)--United States
  • Honorary citizenship--United States--Churchill, Winston
  • Identification cards--United States--Border crossing cards
  • Illegal aliens, Dutch--New Jersey
  • Immigrants--Crimes against--United States
  • Japanese Peruvians--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945
  • Kickapoo Indian
  • Language policy--United States
  • Lennon, John
  • Mail order brides--United States
  • Narcotics, Control of—Illinois
  • Naturalization--Rites and ceremonies—Hawaii
  • Olympic Games (26th : 1996 : Atlanta, GA)
  • Ports of entry--Maine—Houlton
  • Programs and activities (INS)--Operation Gatekeeper
  • Refugees and asylees : annual flow report
  • Riots--Georgia—Atlanta
  • Sanctuary movement--United States
  • Smuggling of aliens—Vermont
  • Traffic checkpoints--California--San Clemente
  • United States--Emigration and immigration—Drama
  • Visas--United States--B-1 (business visitors)
  • War criminals--United States    

Legal History Resources

U.S. immigration and nationality law grew and changed since 1790.  Before 1952 Congress passed, revised, and repealed a variety of laws, many of which were in force at the same time.  With the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 Congress codified all laws into one comprehensive act.  The publications listed below detail prior law and assist researchers in identifying the law and policy in force on a given date between 1893 and 1945.
The following titles are available in the library in hardcopy:
  • Opinions and letters of the Solicitor (Department of Labor) 1913-1923

For information about our services, location, and visiting hours, please see our About the Library page.


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