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How to Find Birth Certificates

by marcia biasiello

A birth certificate is a legal document with the date and place of birth. It establishes identity. When enrolling a child in school, getting a driver's license, applying for a Social Security card or passport, you will be asked to provide a certified copy of your birth certificate. When asked to provide proof of age and identity when applying for a marriage license, a birth certificate is acceptable. Passports are becoming increasingly necessary for crossing international borders. Since a driver's license can be revoked and state and federal identification cards can expire, your birth certificate, which can never be changed or revoked, is a crucial piece of identification to keep on file.

How to Get a Birth Certificate in the United States

An original birth certificate is signed and released to the state to maintain in its vital statistics office, or to a city, county or local office in which the birth occurred. Hospitals can only provide temporary, not certified, copies of birth certificates. Authorized copies of birth certificates can be requested in person or by mail through vital statistics offices. The information you are asked to provide will vary by state. The National Center for Health Statistics provides addresses for each state's vital statistics office, as well as the costs, notice of the years for which they hold documents, and phone numbers for each office by state. Contact the office that you believe holds the birth certificate you need.

For expedited service, you can work with Internet sites that assist in obtaining copies of your birth certificate. RecordsProject.com lists phone numbers for county clerk's offices within the United States at http://recordsproject.com/public/. As of 2009, it advises that a request can take four to eight weeks depending on the backlog. Rush processing is available in some states. Requests cost between $15 and $50 depending on the state or county. All fees are subject to change. VitalChek.com charges $12 to $18 for a authorized, certified copy of a birth certificate, depending on state. You may place an order on behalf of your spouse or child. Legal guardians or representatives will be asked to submit written evidence of guardianship or legal representation. States issue one of four kinds of copies. A computer certification is accepted as legal proof of birth and citizenship. A photocopy certification of the original birth certificate is completed at the time of birth. Certain states, such as Florida, issue commemorative editions signed by the current governor, certified by the state registrar and embossed with the state seal. An apostil/exemplified certification is provided under the Hague Convention of 1961 for authenticating documents for use in foreign countries. Unless you specify that you want a reproduction of the original on security paper, you will likely receive a copy printed from electronic archives. Either version is acceptable when applying for a passport, a driver's license or for verifying age for youth sports.

Once you know the place of birth, you can request an authorized copy of any birth certificate within the United States. If you were born to U.S. parents but outside the country, contact the U.S. Department of State at: Passport Services, Correspondence Branch 1111 19th Street NW, Suite 510 Washington, DC 20522-1705 (202) 955-0307

For adopted people, the original birth record and all other legal documents related to the adoption are not accessible except under procedures specified by state law. Contact the vital statistics office or Department of Health in the state of birth to request more information on how to proceed.

Items you will need
  • Driver's license or state identification card

Tip

  • Taking the time to secure a certified copy of your birth certificate is worth the effort and is becoming increasingly important to legally maintain identity.

About the Author

Marcia Biasiello is a freelance writer in Chicago. She has a background in educational publishing with expertise in image editing and project coordination. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in anthologies, and she was a reader at the "Chicago Tribune's" Printer's Row Lit-Fest, 2009.