If you were born in Belgium to at least one American parent, you attained U.S. citizenship at birth. That means that your parent could register and document your birth and citizenship with a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. If you no longer have the original document your parent were issued, it's not difficult to obtain a certified copy. For those born to parents who were not U.S. citizens, the process is more complex and requires communication with Belgium agencies and compliance with their procedures.
Registering a Birth Abroad
Under U.S. law, any child born in or out of the country to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen. Using State Department terms, in those situations, you attain citizenship at birth. Your parents register your birth abroad with a nearby U.S. consulate or embassy and both your birth and your citizenship are documented by the issuance of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or CRBA.
If you were born In Belgium, your parents would have recorded your birth at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels. Once your parents provided the paperwork, embassy personnel would have looked into the birth and issued a CRBA to your parents. That original document is evidence both of your birth and your citizenship. It entitles you to a U.S. passport and all other rights of American citizens.
Replacing a CRBA
If you are now an adult and require a birth certificate to obtain a new passport or for any other purposes, the CRBA will do the trick. You can use the original CRBA, if you have it. If not, you can replace a CRBA easily, although it may not be precisely identical because of a change in the law.
In 2011, the Department of State began issuing a new Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a form termed FS-240. The prior form, DS-1350, has been retired, although existing forms remain valid for proof of birth and identity. But if you request a replacement copy, you will get the new form. You may request multiple copies of this document at any time.
The procedure for obtaining a replacement certified CRBA isn't difficult. Submit a notarized statement containing the following information:
- Your full name at birth
- Any adoptive names
- Your date and place of birth
- Any available passport information
- Full names of parents
- If known, the serial number of the FS-240
- Signature of requester
- Your mailing address and phone number
You also need to enclose a copy of a valid government-issued photo identification and a check or money order for the fee, currently under $75. Address the request to: Department of State Passport Vital Records Section/ 44132 Mercure Cir./ PO Box 1213/Sterling, VA 20166-1213. The documents are printed in the United States and should arrive in a four to six week period.
Obtaining a Belgium Birth Certificate
It is much more difficult to obtain a Belgium birth certificate issued by Belgium authorities. In Belgium, birth records are maintained by municipalities. You need to write to the municipality where you were born and request the record. Fortunately, English is commonly spoken, so language won't be an issue. You may get a response in a different language, however.
Records in Belgium are protected by the Privacy Act of 1955, which makes them confidential until they are a century old. However, if you are seeking your own birth certificate, that should not be a problem. The exact procedure and costs vary among municipalities.
- If you do not have all the information necessary to file a request for a birth certificate, an administrator within the municipality may have to do so for you. You will then be billed for this work at a rate that is equivalent to about 30 Euros per hour.
- You could receive your response in French, Dutch of German.
With a Master's in English, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's law school, Teo Spengler is up on education. She splits her home time between San Francisco and France. A perpetual student and frequent teacher, she is also a writer and world traveler. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Fairmont Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites.