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On the INS Form I-415 being issued in 1952, there is a column that refers to "travel document no." and "nationality". Nationality is obvious, but the travel document number is not.

What does a travel document number (in the format of I-123456) refer to?

  • Hi Josh -- welcome to G&FH.SE. Your question would have been clearer if you had said at the outset what kind of document you were looking at, instead of referring to it only by its INS form number -- but it was useful to have the form number to search on. – Jan Murphy Oct 25 '18 at 0:11
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This appears to be answered by the Code of Federal Regulations: 1949-1984.

Chapter 1 deals with Immigration and Naturalization. The phrase used there on several occasions is 'a valid passport or other travel document'. This therefore covers documents including non-US passports, US visas issued without a passport, NATO Travel Orders, etc.

In short, it appears the travel document number would be the number of whatever travel document allowed the bearer to legally enter the United States.


National Archives Publication Number: M1774, Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels (March 1931–March 1957) and Airplanes (December 1954–March 1957) Arriving at Brownsville, Texas, appears to further confirm this in its description of INS Form I-434, Manifest of Outward-Bound Passengers (Aliens):

INS Form I-434, Manifest of Outward-Bound Passengers (Aliens), includes the person’s name, age, and travel document numbers, such as a foreign passport and/or U.S. Visa.

  • (my emphasis)
  • Ah, so it doesn’t necessarily distinguish between a visa or foreign passport. My particular point of interest here is in determining whether my grandfather ever held a German passport (of any type, since the postwar period in Germany saw a variety of issuers). Any evidence that points to a way for INS or USCIS to tell you the document’s origin, type, etc.? – Josh Smith Oct 24 '18 at 7:36
  • @JoshSmith In National Archives Publication M1774 there is a reference to an A-File which would hold that information. You may need to place a Freedom of Information Act request with the INS to get access to it though. – sempaiscuba Oct 24 '18 at 7:40
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This answer follows up on the previous answer and its comments --

According to the descriptive pamphlet for NARA's Microfilm publication m1411, describing Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at San Francisco, CA, December 1, 1954--February 1, 1957. M1411. 19 rolls., these records are

arranged in chronological order by date of arrival. Passenger lists are form I-415 (manifest of inbound passengers, alien) and I-416 (manifest of inbound passengers, US citizens or nationals).

The USCIS Genealogy program page on Researching Individuals says:

Arrival after May 1, 1951 All immigrants admitted since May 1, 1951 should be entirely documented in an A-File, a unified folder intended to hold all records related to one individual. A-Files numbered 8 million and above (arrived May 1, 1951 and after) are available through the USCIS Freedom of Information Act Program (FOIA).

If you want to see what some of the A-files look like, you can search in the National Archives catalog. Files are contained in two series.

  • Files held at Kansas City: Alien Case Files 1940-2003 (NARA ID 4488912 – then “Search within this series”)
  • Files held at San Francisco: Alien Case Files 1944-2009 (NARA ID 6105565 – then “Search within this series”)

Once you have chosen to search within the individual series, look on the left-hand side of the page for the filter Refine By: Data Source and you can choose to filter for Archival Descriptions with Digital Objects. That will show you which files have been scanned and attached to their catalog description.

Searching the Code of Federal Regulations: 1949-1984 that was referenced in the previous answer for the phrase "Form I-415" describes what travel documents should be listed, and how, in Section 231.21, subpart B, subsection (f) Listing documents. That section lists some possibilities:

  • Foreign Service Form 256 or 257
  • Immigration Form I-100a
  • Immigration forms I-132, I-419
  • Immigration Form I-94

You may be able to see which forms are numbered starting with I followed by six digits by looking in the files which have been posted online.

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