Not just anyone can get a copy of your birth certificate. You can get one, and, in many states, your parents or children can also get a certified copy, but anyone unrelated to you will run into difficulties. That's a security measure meant to protect you from identity theft or similar crimes, but it may seem more of a hurdle than a benefit if you lack a government-issued ID to establish your identity. Your state will provide alternatives.
Birth Certificate ID
A birth certificate is typically your first official identification document, establishing your first and last name. It remains a seminal identification document all your life. It is a "go-to" document to prove identity for a driver's license, a passport, and visas and immigration documents. If you have an official copy of your birth certificate, it's good evidence that you are the person named in the certificate.
That's one of the reasons that states make it difficult to obtain official (or certified) copies of birth certificates. Since these are identification documents that do not have photographs attached, they can help someone else steal your identity. A birth certificate contains personal information that can also assist an identity thief, such as date, time and place of birth, your parents' names, and sometimes, their dates of birth as well.
To make it more difficult for someone to steal your identity, many states only provide certified copies of birth certificates to the person named in the certificate, close relatives of that person, and government officials. They provide "informational" certificates to the public that simply confirm a birth. To establish your identity so you can obtain a certified copy, you'll need to prove your identity.
What ID Do You Need to Get a Birth Certificate?
The identification you need to order your own birth certificate varies among states. In most states, such as Connecticut, a government-issued picture identification works just fine, such as a passport or a driver's license. However, you may be trying to obtain a birth certificate as a prerequisite to obtaining one of these government-issued identification. If so, you may feel as if you are caught in a Catch 22 situation, unable to get a birth certificate without a driver's license and unable to get a driver's license without a birth certificate.
Other states, like California, require that you sign and notarize a statement swearing under penalty of perjury that you are one of the people eligible to obtain the birth certificate. That may seem more hopeful until you learn that the notary requires that you provide proof of identity too.
Alternative Birth Certificate IDs
You'll be happy to know that states generally take your situation into account when they make identification laws. Most states allow you to produce alternative forms of identification if you don't have government-issued identification. For example, if you do not have a valid government-issued identification, Connecticut allows you to prove identity by providing any two documents from a list that includes:
- Social Security card;
- an employment identification card, a paycheck stub or a W-2 form;
- automobile registration;
- utility bill showing name and current address;
- checking account deposit slip or bank statement stating name and current address;
- voter registration card;
- valid government-issued trade or professional license;
- valid government-issued firearm permit;
- probation documents issued by a court or other government agency, pursuant to a criminal conviction;
- a letter from a government agency verifying your identity;
- release documentation from a correctional institution containing a photograph of the former inmate and a release date within 12 months prior to the date of the request;
- military discharge papers;
- current school or college photographic identification; or
- government-issued photographic identification that has expired within 12 months prior to the date of the request.
Check with the Department of Vital Statistics in your state of birth to determine which alternative identification you can use. It usually will be included in their website.
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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.