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Birth Certificates

If you need to obtain a copy of birth certificates, you must follow a set list of important steps. Your birth records are important documents to possess, because they are used to verify your citizenship, identity and your date of birth. You will need to get birth certificate documentation and have it available if you want to apply for a driver's license, passport or other government-issued identification. Obtaining a birth certificate online is a convenient option for many individuals, and applicants can learn how to complete an online order with the details on our website. A lost birth certificate can be cause for concern for any citizen who cannot find this vital document, so it is important to know the steps for ordering a new one. If you are wondering how to get a new birth certificate, our site can walk you through these easy but crucial steps. When you apply for a birth certificate, you will need to present certain documents and payment for a successful transaction. A birth certificate replacement is only granted once your identification is verified, the proper fees are paid, and paperwork is turned in. Learn what to expect when you order birth certificate documents if you have misplaced your original. You may need to get birth certificates or certificates of live birth, based on your needs. So it is imperative to know the difference and how to request each. Use the details provided in the sections below to learn about the request process and what you will need to move forward:

  • The differences between birth certificates and certificates of live birth
  • Why are birth records needed?
  • Birth records and traveling
  • How to get a birth certificate
  • How to get birth certificates for foreign births

The Differences Between Birth Certificates and Certificates of Live Birth

Birth records are important documents because they contain specific information about a person, including full name, gender, place of birth, race, birth date and the names of the biological parents. When referring to birth records, both birth certificates and certificates of live birth are included. However, though both are records of birth, these two documents have their differences.

An official certified copy of birth certificates is the birth record that was legally filed after a birth. It can be identified by its seal, which may be embossed or multicolored. The official seal may also be raised or impressed on the document. For these birth records to be considered official, they must also contain a delivery doctor's signature and both names of the parents.

In contrast, while a certificate of live birth is a birth record, it is considered an unofficial document. This certificate is issued by the hospital at the time of birth and has the details of the birth, along with the baby's footprints. After the certificate of live birth is recorded, a certified birth certificate is created, given to the parents and filed with the state government. As it is an unofficial birth record, the certificate of live birth can only be used for informational purposes.

Why are birth records needed?

Birth records that contain a certified copy of birth certificates are considered vital documents. Vital records are maintained by the government to officially record a citizen's major life events. Similarly, marriage certificates, death certificates and divorce decrees are all considered vital records, because they provide information about crucial life events.

A certified copy of birth certificate documentation, as it is considered a vital record, may be used to obtain other crucial identifying documents, such as a driver's license, a passport, an identification card and other government-issued documentation. Parents who are registering their child for team sports with age limits or for school will also be asked to present their child's birth certificate for age verification. Additionally, birth records are needed to apply for a marriage license in many states. Furthermore, a certified copy of birth certificates is crucial for obtaining a replacement Social Security card.

In addition, birth records are also required if you need to:

  • Prove you are eligible to work in the country.
  • Look for a family history record.
  • Organize an inheritance or family estate.
  • Apply for a federal assistance program.
  • Claim a child as a dependent on your taxes.

Birth Records and Traveling

A copy of birth certificates should always be kept easily accessible because it can be used to prove your citizenship and identity when traveling. When traveling by air, a passport must be presented by all United States citizens on international flights. This includes young children, as well as infants.

Meanwhile, a copy of birth certificates can be used by certain travelers on domestic flights. For instance, birth records can be used by citizens younger than 18 years old, because the law does not require them to present identification with a photo. Birth records, however, cannot be presented by adults as primary identifying documents, only as secondary IDs. In any case, each airline has its own requirements for minors, so it is important to check the qualifications first.

A certified copy of birth certificates can also be employed by certain travelers at land and sea border crossings. Minor U.S. citizens (younger than 16 years old) can employ birth records if they are attempting to cross a border that is part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, such as Bermuda, most of the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Canada. Also, to prevent delays, citizens 18 years of age or younger who are traveling without a parent or legal guardian must carry a parental consent letter that has been notarized and signed.

Adults may also use a copy of birth certificates when traveling by sea, so long as it is on a cruise that departs from and finishes at a U.S. port. This document will be used to prove their citizenship and their ability to re-enter the country after leaving. It is important to note, however, that a passport may also be needed at a foreign port, and should be kept throughout the duration of the trip.

Note: When traveling with a newborn, if official birth records have not been issued yet, a Consular Report of Birth Aboard (if applicable) or a certificate of live birth should be carried.

To apply for birth certificate documentation, you will need to contact your state's Bureau of Vital Statistics. It is crucial to replace a lost birth certificate as soon as you notice it has been misplaced, because this document may be needed to complete important tasks. The process to request birth records may be different in each state. Generally, to order birth certificates, you can apply online, by mail or in person. Requesting a birth certificate online requires you to fill out an online application and submit it electronically. In any case, to successfully obtain a certified copy of birth certificates, you must prove that you are:

  • A legal representative of the subject named on the birth certificate.
  • A parent or guardian of the birth certificate holder.
  • The person named on the certificate, and at least 18 years of age or older.
  • Approved by the court to obtain the birth certificate.

To apply for birth records, you will need to provide the full name of the birth certificate holder as it appears on the certificate, as well as the place of birth, the parents' names and the birth date. For a copy of birth certificates to be provided to someone not listed on the certificate, the applicant's full name and his or her relationship to the birth certificate holder will be required as well. The requestor will also need to provide a government-issued ID, contact information and a signature. In some instances, proof of address or copies of notarized guardianship documents may be requested.

There are three types of birth certificate replacements that can be presented to the applicant, depending on his or her eligibility and preference. These include:

  • A computer certification, which can be printed at home.
  • A commemorative certification, which is not official and can only be used as a souvenir.
  • An official printed copy, which is sent by mail.

Birth certificate replacement eligibility requirements and fees are different in each state. Also, birth records may have different processing times, depending on state departments. Typically, it takes between three to 15 business days to complete a request. With mail-in birth record applications, you may also need to send a self-addressed stamped envelope. Furthermore, to expedite your replacement birth certificate order, you can often include an additional fee with your application.

Note: A lost birth certificate is dangerous, because it can be used for identity fraud. Before applying for a replacement birth certificate, it is important to report a misplaced official document to the police, credit card companies and the Department of Motor Vehicles. A copy of birth certificates can be requested thereafter.

How to Get Birth Certificates for Foreign Births

The process to obtain a certificated copy of birth certificate records can be different if you were born abroad to American parents, or born at an international military base. The embassy or consulate for your birth country must be contacted to obtain these documents. Your official birth records can be sent when you are issued a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. You may need to get birth certificate records from the consulate of your birth country if you were born abroad and adopted by a United States citizen.