How to Obtain a Certified International Birth Certificate

by Teo Spengler

It's hard enough to obtain a certified birth certificate if you were born in California or Florida. If you were born in India, Brazil or some other foreign country, the process may feel like a three-ring circus. Fortunately, the U.S. State Department set up a simplified way to get the job done, called the "Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States."

Tips

  • You can get a certified copy of your CFBA, a type of international birth certificate, by sending a written, notarized request, a copy of your photo ID and a check to the State Department.

What Is a CRBA?

If you were born in the United States, you are, at birth, a U.S. citizen. A copy of your birth certificate showing that you came into the world in Utah or Hawaii establishes your identity and also proves your citizenship. If you were born in a foreign country to at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, you are also an American citizen at birth. But a birth certificate issued in Mexico or Ghana might not prove your citizenship.

To make it easier for an American born abroad to establish citizenship, the State Department developed a program to issue Consular Reports of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States, or CRBAs. If a couple, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, give birth to a child in a foreign country, the parents can register the birth with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The parents apply for a CRBA, and if the embassy or consulate determines that the child is a U.S. citizen, an officer approves the application. The State Department issues a CRBA, also called a Form FS-240, in the child’s name.

The procedure was streamlined in 2011. The new CRBA procedure is more secure, and the documents are printed in the United States rather than at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Obtaining a Certified CRBA

Your parents obtained one original CRBA when you were born. If you need it and can't put your hands on it, you can replace the document and obtain one or multiple copies of this "international birth certificate" for a fee. The only people who can get a copy are the person whose birth is recorded on the document if he is age 18 or older, his parent or guardian if he is under age 18, or the staff of authorized agencies.

To order a certified copy, first submit a written request that you sign and get notarized. Your request must include your full name at birth, the date and place of birth, the names of your parents, your mailing address and contact phone number, any available passport information, and, if you have it, the serial number of the original form. Also include a copy of a government-issued picture identification and a check (made out to the U.S. Department of State) or a money order for the fee, currently under $100. Mail your request to:

  • Department of State    
  • Passport Vital Records Section
  • 44132 Mercure Circle
  • P.O. Box 1213
  • Sterling, VA  20166-1213

You should receive your CRBA in four to six weeks.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between French Basque Country and California.