References to Visas after July 1, 1924

The Immigration Act of 1924 changed everything in the world of U.S. immigration records. Beginning July 1 of that year, everyone arriving at a U.S. port of entry needed some sort of entry document. United States citizens needed their birth record or their naturalization certificate. Non-citizens needed one of a variety of documents depending on their purpose. Immigrants coming to live permanently in the United States needed Immmigrant Visas. As a result, new columns like those at right appeared on U.S. passenger lists.
The listing at right shows the new information added to record visa information. Prospective immigrants wishing to move to the U.S. had to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy abroad. After approving an application, a U.S. Consul issued the visa. The date is the date the Consul issued the visa. The place or city is the location where the immigrant applied and got their visa. The final number is the U.S. Department of State number associated with that application. While the number may be useful in finding a copy of the application among State Department records, it is of NO use today in locating the Immigrant Visa File held by the Immigration and Naturaliztion Service (INS). The final piece of information describes each visa as either "Quota" or "N Quota" (meaning Non-Quota, or not subject to quotas).

What is not immediately clear from this list is whether these visas are Immigrant visas or NON-Immigrant visas.
Immigrant visas were for people intending to remain permanently in the United States
Non-immigrant visas were for people coming to the United States only temporarily, such as visitors, students, or transits

If one wants to request a visa file from INS, it is important to first determine whether the visa was for an immigrant or non-immigrant. This may be learned from other columns of the manifest (such as "do you intend to remain permanently?") or from prior family history knowledge. Any request to INS for a Visa File (for arrivals July 1, 1924 to March 30, 1944) should include the name, DOB, POB, date, port, and ship of arrival. Do NOT include the visa number from the passenger list.
Early References to Visas

Visas in the form of "visa stamps" in someone's passport were required as early as 1921, and can be found in passports even earlier. Between 1921 and 1924, and in the summer of 1924 before new passenger list forms could be printed, one may find handwritten references to visa issuance. The example below is from September 1924. It shows visas issued at Naples, Italy, on August 29, 1924, in response to applications numbered 1638 to 1658.

Other Travel Documents After July 1, 1924

The new requirements for travel papers (called "Documentary Requirements") also affected immigrants living in the United States. If they wanted to travel abroad for a visit, did they have to apply for a visa abroad before they came back? Did they have to naturalized so they could show a U.S. naturalization certificate? The 1924 immigration law provided for Reentry Permits. Alien residents of the United States applied for the permits before they departed, and carried the permit while traveling outside the United States. They then presented the permit upon return at the U.S. port of entry.

The example at right shows Reentry Permit information entered into the Visa columns on a December 1924 passenger list. Since Reentry Permits were issued based on verification of prior passenger arrival records (see Annotations in the Name Column), this passenger obviously has more than one immigration record.

"Transit aliens" might also appear in the visa columns after July 1924. Previously (see Non-Immigrant stamps in Other Columns) most transits are noted in the left margin or elsewhere, perhaps with a mention of their Transit Certificate number. After 1924 great care was taken to note the documents supporting each individual's admission into the United States, and so Transit Certificates like that mentioned below may appear in the visa columns.

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