Getting a copy of your birth certificate from another jurisdiction within the United States is relatively straightforward, but retrieving one from another country usually involves a few more steps. If you were born in Germany, for example, you can't request a copy from the central government. Instead, you'll need to approach the vital records office in the city where you were born.
Where Your German Birth Certificate Is Kept
A German birth certificate, or geburtsurkunden, is recorded at the municipal level. To order one, you'll need to go through the vital statistics office for the city where you were born, which, in German, is called the standesamt. Most German municipalities have a website in German and English, with a URL that's just the city's name followed by the .de that marks it as a German website. Alternatively, you can do a quick internet search of the name of your target city, followed by the word standesamt, and then either click for the English translation of the site or allow your browser to translate for you. It's helpful, but not at all necessary, to understand at least a few words of German to compensate for the occasional clumsy or misleading translation.
Sending Your Request
Once you've located the office that holds the record of your German birth certificate and gotten its mailing address, you'll need to apply in writing for a copy. It's best to ask for the international version of your birth certificate, which is multilingual and has all the pertinent information in English. The official site of the U.S. Embassy in Germany provides a helpful template for ordering a birth certificate, with full text in both English and German. Submit your request along with proof of your identity, such as a certified copy of your passport, and the required fee. As of late 2017, for example, the city of Frankfurt charged 11 euros for a birth certificate and 5 more for each additional copy requested as part of the same order.
Consular Report of Birth Abroad
There are actually two records of your birth in Germany, and your German birth certificate is only one of them. The other is a "Consular Report of Birth Abroad," which is the U.S. document recording the birth of a new citizen while outside American borders. Depending on your circumstances, you might also need one of these, or simply wish to have it in your possession should you need it in the future. Copies of your Consular Report are available through the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs website. As of late 2017, the fee for ordering this document was $50.
- U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Germany: Obtaining Vital Records
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Foreign Birth and Death Certificates
- U.S. Army Kaiserslautern Legal Services Center: Born in Germany
- Frankfurt.de: Order a Birth Certificate
- U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Germany: Standesamt Request Template
- U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs: Replace or Amend a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)
- The Vital Records Section is at the U.S. Department of State, 1111 19th Street NW, Suite 510, Washington, DC 20522-1705.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.