OK, What Is a USCIS 'Certificate of Non-Existence'?

By David North on January 10, 2023

A few days ago, in a posting about the proposed new round of USCIS fees, we noted that a large increase in the fee had been proposed for a “Certificate of Non-Existence”, a USCIS form that I had never heard of before. (It was among a list of 144 others, so the ignorance might be excused.)

The proposal was that the fee was going to rise from nothing to $330.

Was USCIS going to charge us such a fee to certify the non-existence of Dracula — or at the other extreme, Santa Claus? Did this somehow relate to non-existent corporations?

Our speculation on the subject was dashed when we looked up the form (G-1566) on the internet and found that a fuller title, such as “Certificate of Non-Existence of Records”, would have solved most of the mystery.

It seems that under some circumstances it is useful for someone to seek such a certificate that neither USCIS, nor the predecessor agency, the old Immigration and Naturalization Service, has any records on that person. You may apply for yourself or a relative, including a dead one.

Now it is a nuisance — and no minor expense — to paw through tens of millions of records, even digital ones, to prove a negative; the government should not be doing this for free, so the proposed fee of $330 is justified.

The remaining mystery is why would the lack of immigration documentation be useful to someone? If a reader, perhaps an immigration lawyer, could answer that question we will be to happy to share the solution, along with the informant’s name, with other readers.

Sometimes the government seeks to de-naturalize someone and a possible reply could be “I never was naturalized in the first place.” This would seem to be an unlikely scenario — are there others? Maybe a prosecutor might want to show that a criminal had no proof of legal status in the country in an effort to help convince a jury that they should convict the guy.