If you were born in South Korea, you don't have to fly back there to obtain a copy of your birth certificate. You can do it by mailing a written request. The process for obtaining the document is different depending on whether you were born an American citizen or a citizen of South Korea.
South Korea maintains family records – births, deaths, marriages, divorces – in a family census register, sometimes called a family relation register. Each ward – small administrative districts in South Korea – keeps its own census register. Your Korean birth certificate will be in the ward where the family head has established a residence.
Contact your family and ask which ward your birth would have been registered in. Then contact the ward office with the name of your family, the family address, your name and the current fee. South Korea's embassy and consulates in the United States can probably provide you with the ward's mailing address. To get results from the ward, you'll have to provide the names written in Korean.
The main South Korean embassy is in Washington, D.C. South Korea also has several consulates in other major cities. That might make it easier if you'd prefer to discuss your request with an official in person.
If you were born in South Korea but either or both of your parents were U.S. citizens, you might qualify as an American citizen from birth. The U.S. government considers several factors, including the following:
- Were your parents married?
- Do you have one citizen parent or two?
- How long did your citizen parent live in the U.S. before your birth?
The U.S. Department of State breaks down the exact rules on its website.
If you were born in South Korea as an American citizen, the U.S. consulate will record an FS-240 document – a "Consular Report of Birth Abroad." This record is acceptable as proof of birth and U.S. citizenship for any legal purpose. You can't get this from the consulate, though; all such records are stored in Washington, D.C.
Requesting Your FS-240
To get your consular report, submit a signed, notarized hard-copy request to the State Department. You'll have to provide a copy of a photo identification, such as your passport or driver's license, with the letter. Include all the following information:
- Your full name at birth
- The date and place of birth
- Any available passport information
- Your parents' full names
- The serial number of the FS-240 if you have it
- Your mailing address
At time of writing, you also have to pay a $50 fee. It takes four to six weeks to process your request.
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Over the course of his career, Fraser Sherman has reported on local governments, written about how to start a business and published four books of film reference. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs.