People who move to the U.S. from other countries are assigned nine-digit numbers by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. These numbers are called Alien Registration Numbers or A numbers and are included in petitions or forms that are filed with the USCIS. The USCIS uses A numbers as identification numbers for people who are not U.S. citizens but who are present in the U.S. This number is used by the government to keep track of the various immigration petitions and documents that you might file with the USCIS while you live in the U.S. Each person who immigrates to the U.S. is given a unique A number. Here is everything that you need to know about your Alien Registration Number and where you can locate it on important documents.
What is an Alien Registration Number?
An Alien Registration Number is a unique number that is issued by the USCIS to noncitizens for identification purposes. Any person who is not a U.S. national or citizen is considered to be an "alien" for purposes of the identification number. If you are issued an A-number, you will keep it for life. This number is similar to the Social Security Numbers that are issued by the U.S. government. If you are a noncitizen, your A-number is your legal identification number in the U.S. and will be important as you begin your new life in the U.S. This number includes seven to nine digits that follow the letter A on various immigration forms.
Who is given an Alien Registration Number?
Only certain noncitizens are issued A-numbers. Most people who temporarily come to the U.S., including people who come as tourists or for business purposes, are not issued Alien Registration Numbers. These people are short-term visitors instead of permanent immigrants.
If you apply for any type of immigrant visa, you will be issued an Alien Registration Number. A-numbers are issued to people who apply for family-based immigration visas, employment-based immigration visas, and immigration visas for asylees or refugees. If you intend to permanently live in the U.S., you will be given an Alien Registration Number.
If you enter the U.S. with an F-1 visa to pursue a degree at an SEVP-approved university,
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college, conservatory, or seminary, you will have the opportunity to work through the optional practical training or OPT program. If the designated school official at your institution recommends you for pre- or post-completion OPT, you can file Form I-765 to apply for an employment authorization document or EAD. If you are granted an EAD, you will be assigned an Alien Registration Number even though you are not applying for a green card. This is an exception to the general rule that A-numbers are only issued to immigrants.
When are Alien Registration Numbers issued?
The USCIS assigns people Alien Registration Numbers at the time that they submit petitions for green cards if they meet the conditions for getting them. If you are an F-1 visa holder who has been granted employment authorization to work through the OPT program, you will be issued an A-number after you file the petition for employment authorization.
Applicants for marriage-based immigration visas who are already in the U.S. will be issued A-numbers. After you file your application for a marriage-based green card, the USCIS will send you a notice of receipt that will contain your A-number. If you married a U.S. citizen and immediately file Form I-485 to adjust your status and to get your green card, you will receive your A-number within approximately 30 days. If you married a lawful permanent U.S. resident, your spouse will first need to file Form I-130 to petition on your behalf. Once it is approved and an immigrant visa becomes available, you will then file Form I-485. The process for being granted an A-number for people who marry lawful permanent residents takes about a year.
If you apply for an immigration visa based on marriage from outside of the U.S., you will not be assigned an Alien Registration Number until you attend your interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. Whether your spouse is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. or a U.S. citizen, you will be given a few forms, including an immigrant data summary and the USCIS immigrant fee handout. These forms will list your Alien Registration Number in the upper right corner. Your A-number will also be listed on your visa.
Creation of the A-file and issuance of the A-number
If your immigration petition is approved by the USCIS, the official who approves you will create an A-file for you. This file will contain your Alien Registration Number and the petitions and forms that you have filed. You will not be issued an A-number or have an A-file created until your petition is approved.
Where to find your Alien Registration Number
When you submit your green card application to the USCIS, you will find your A-number on every document that is sent to you from the USCIS, including the receipt notice. Most of the correspondence that you receive from the agency will list your A-number near the top of the first page at the right corner. It will be listed as an A followed by a series of digits. For example, it might appear like A012345678.
People who apply for immigrant visas while they are outside of the U.S. can find their Alien Registration Numbers on the immigrant data summary and the immigrant fee handout they are given at the time that they attend their interviews at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home countries.
The immigrant data summary is a form that will be stapled on top of your visa immigrant packet. The A-number will be listed in the upper right corner. Underneath it, you will see a second number called the Department of State Case ID number. This DOS Case ID number will begin with three letters followed by nine or 10 digits. It might appear like BCD9876543210. Both of these numbers are important and should be kept carefully.
The USCIS immigrant fee handout is supposed to be given to you at your interview by the consular or embassy official when you meet. This document tells you how you can submit the required immigrant fee and will include your Alien Registration Number. Like the immigrant data summary, you will see your A-number and your DOS Case ID number printed in the upper right corner. Your A-number will be listed first, and your DOS Case ID number will be printed underneath it. If the official who interviews you fails to give you the summary or handout, you should contact the U.S. consulate or embassy to obtain a copy.
Once the consular or embassy official stamps your visa in your passport, you can find your A-number printed on it. On the visa, you will see a section that begins with IV Case Number. This is not your A-number and is instead your DOS Case ID number. The digits of your A-number will appear underneath the DOS Case ID number on your visa and will be labeled as your registration number. It will not begin with A on your visa but will include all of the unique digits that have been assigned to you.
Paying the USCIS immigrant fee
People who are immigrating to the U.S. as new lawful permanent residents are required to pay the USCIS immigrant fee. It is $220. You must pay this fee online after you receive approval for your immigrant visa and before you travel to the U.S. This fee is used by the USCIS to process your visa packet and to create your Permanent Resident Card.
Getting your Permanent Resident Card or green card
After you have paid the USCIS immigrant fee and have your A-number, you can apply for a Permanent Resident Card, which is also called a green card. Lawful permanent U.S. residents are people who have been authorized to live and work in the U.S. permanently. To prove your status, you will be given a green card.
When you receive your green card, it will contain your Alien Registration Number. Your number will appear in the middle of the front of your green card next to your picture and will be labeled as the USCIS number. You can also find it on the back of your green card.
What happens if you lose your Alien Registration Number?
It is important for you to keep your Alien Registration Number because you will use it for many things in the U.S. If you lose it and are unable to find any documents or paperwork from the USCIS that have it listed, you can request a copy of your A-file by filing a Freedom of Information Act or FOIA request. Agencies process FOIA requests in the order that they receive them, so obtaining your A-number in this way might take some time.
Difference between A-numbers and case numbers
When you receive a notice of receipt from the USCIS after you have submitted your application, you will also see a receipt or case number. You use the case number to track the status of your application online. By contrast, your A-number is assigned to you as a person. For example, if you apply for an immigrant visa now and later apply for U.S. citizenship, the two applications will contain different case numbers. However, your A-number will be the same during both processes.
These numbers also appear differently. The A-number will always contain seven to nine digits. The case number will contain 13 characters. It will start with three letters followed by 10 digits.
Is the Alien Registration Number the same as a Social Security Number?
Your A-number is different from a Social Security Number. The SSN is a number that is issued by the Social Security Administration. It is used to track your earned income, the taxes that you pay, and the benefits that you receive by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. When you apply for a green card, you can also apply for employment authorization and a Social Security Number.
Why your Alien Registration Number is important
Unlike A-numbers, green cards are not permanent. When you become a lawful permanent U.S. resident, you will have to renew your card every 10 years. If you are granted conditional permanent resident status based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you will need to apply to remove the conditions on your green card after two years by filing Form I-751. Once the USCIS approves the removal of the conditions, you will be given a Permanent Resident Card that will be good for 10 years. To renew your green card, you should file Form I-90 online with the USCIS.
According to the USCIS, the government began issuing Alien Registration Numbers in 1940 to non-citizens of the U.S. Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is responsible for assigning A-numbers to qualifying non-citizens.
Having an Alien Registration Number and a green card is not the same as being a U.S. citizen. However, obtaining these are the first step to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. Your A-number on your green card can help you as you apply for a bank account, Social Security Number, employment, and housing. If you want to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you will have to apply through the naturalization process after you have met the requirements.
Preparing for your new life in the U.S.
Receiving an immigrant visa or an F-1 visa can mark the start of an exciting chapter in your life. The A-number on your immigrant visa will be used as your identification number while you live in the U.S. If you are an F-1 visa holder who applies for an employment authorization document to participate in the OPT program, you will also be assigned an A-number.
Preparing to move to a new country will require many different steps beyond simply purchasing your plane tickets. After you arrive in the U.S., you might need to open a bank account, apply for a lease, purchase a car, and get a credit card. Banks, lenders, and landlords in the U.S. request credit checks for applicants to determine their creditworthiness. The credit history that you built in your home country will not be listed in your credit records with the major credit reporting bureaus in the U.S., however. This means that you will need to find a different way to transfer your credit to the U.S. with you when you move. Nova Credit offers a global credit passport to people who are moving to the U.S. from other countries. This is a translation of your credit history into a credit score that can be used by lenders and landlords to make decisions about whether to extend credit to you or to allow you to lease an apartment. Obtaining your Nova Credit score can ease the transition to living in the U.S.
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