What is the Alien Registration Number?
If you have ever taken a close look at some U.S. immigration forms (such as the Form I-765 or the Form I-140) you will see an entry asking for your Alien Registration Number (also called A-Number, Alien Number, USCIS Number, or A#).
This Alien Registration Number is a unique alpha-numeric number that starts with the letter A and is followed by 7, 8, or 9 digits.
The A-number is assigned by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to keep track of the immigration records of certain noncitizens in the United States.
As an analogy, the A-Number or Alien Registration Number is to your U.S. immigration record what a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) is to your U.S. tax records.
In other words, in the exact same way you use your SSN or ITIN to file your tax return to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Treasury, you will need your A-Number when filing for immigration benefits to USCIS, which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Like an SSN, an Alien Registration Number never expires, although the document where an Alien Registration Number is shown (such as an EAD card or a U.S. Green Card) might expire.
The Alien Registration Number must not be confused with the USCIS online account number.
Who Receives an A-Number
Interestingly, not all foreign nationals in the United States get Alien Registration Numbers.
The A-Number is generally assigned to noncitizens who have applied to permanently immigrate to the United States. This includes all classes of noncitizens who meet the eligibility requirement to obtain permanent residency in the United States such as through employment, immediate relatives, or refugee status.
All other noncitizens present in the United States on a nonimmigrant basis do not receive an Alien Registration Number.
The only exception when a noncitizen might receive an A-Number is if the person is a U.S. nonimmigrant on an F-1 student status who has obtained an employment benefit from USCIS in the form of Optional Practical Training (OPT).
How to Find Your Alien Registration Number
If you have been assigned an Alien Registration Number, you will find this number on the following types of documents
- It will be the USCIS# on the front side of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card)
- It will be the USCIS# on the front side of the Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
- It will be the same as the Registration Number on an Immigrant Visa
- It will be in the applicant section located at the top of Form I-797 Approval Notice for an F-1 student approved for OPT or STEM-OPT.
- It will be in the USCIS Alien Number field located at the top of the Form I-797 Receipt Notice for someone who has applied for permanent residency
Entering the A-Number on USCIS Immigration Forms
Most USCIS immigration forms contain an entry for a 9 digit A-Number, in the form of A-XXXXXXXXX.
If your A-Number is 7 or 8 digits long, you should add extra zeros before the digits to complete the 9 digit requirement on the immigration form. For example if your A-Number is A-1234567, this would be entered as A-001234567 on the USCIS immigration form.
When Do You Need an A-Number
On the contrary, if you are not eligible to obtain an A-Number (all nonimmigrants except F-1 students approved for OPT) you do not need to worry about leaving the A-Number entry blank on a USCIS immigration form. Simply because you were never assigned an Alien Registration Number by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Alien Registration Number for F-1 Students on OPT
As discussed, F-1 international students who have been approved for Optional Practical Training are the only US nonimmigrants who receive an A-Number.
Once this A-Number is assigned, it should be used when completing all immigration forms in the future.
Such as when completing the Form I-765 Application for STEM OPT or when completing the Form I-129 for a change of status to a nonimmigrant worker status such as the H-1B nonimmigrant status.