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."
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.
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.