In the United States, a birth certificate is usually the first form of identification that citizens receive. From registering for school to getting a passport, this important document is essential for a multitude of important legal procedures. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about birth certificates in the U.S., including their main purposes, how and where to get one for the first time, and how to get a replacement.
Keep in mind: If you need information about Mexican birth certificates, our team put together this guide for obtaining one.
What is an American birth certificate?
A birth certificate is a document issued by the state government containing information related to a U.S. citizen's identity at birth. Information on birth certificates includes: the person’s name, their sex, their birthplace, the date and time of birth, and information about their parents (such as their name and nationality.)
What’s the purpose of an American birth certificate?
An American birth certificate is an official form of identification used to demonstrate a person 's identity. According to the government’s official website, there are a few situations that require a copy of your birth certificate:
- Applying for a passport.
- Applying for governmental assistance programs.
- Enrolling in school.
- Signing up for the armed forces.
These are just a few examples of the many scenarios that require a birth certificate. Since it's an official form of identification, a lot of procedures— such as opening a bank account or a line of credit— are a lot easier when you use a birth certificate. Your birth certificate is also required in order to get your driver’s license or a Social Security Number.
How is an American birth certificate registered?
When a baby is born in a hospital in the United States, the hospital sends the parents the forms to register the birth. If the baby was born at home or in a maternity center, the midwife or nurse will provide the parents with these documents.
In order to fill out the registration form, the parents have to provide their personal information such as their full name, address, and social security number. That’s why we recommend that parents bring an official I.D. with them when they go to the hospital.
Where can I get a copy of my birth certificate?
Like we mentioned, American birth certificates are issued by the local government of the baby’s birthplace. The procedure and cost of obtaining a certified copy of this document will vary depending on the place where the birth was originally registered.
Contact your local vital records office to replace your or your child's birth certificate. Below is a list of contact information on vital records offices for each U.S. state and territory:
Website (Site may only be available in English)
(602) 364-1300, (888) 816-5907
New York City
(212) 639-9675 or dial 311 from New York City
(302) 744-4549 / (302) 283-7130 / (302) 856-5495
District of Columbia
Northern Mariana Islands
(670) 236-8717 /
(670) 234-8950 Ext.2141
(340) 774-9000 ext. 4685 or 4686
(502) 564- 4212
New York (except within New York City)
Oklahoma Vital Records
(787) 767-9120 ext. 6100
(684) 633-1405 / 1406, (684) 633-4606 / 2262
(800) 439-5008 / (802) 863-7275
(360) 236-4300, press 8 for Spanish
Panama Canal Zone
Requirements for obtaining a birth certificate
In order to register a baby and get an American birth certificate, they have to have been born in the United States. Aside from this requirement, the only thing they need is for their parents to fill out their corresponding forms that they received at the hospital or their local office of vital records. Some places charge a filing fee which can range from $15 to $30.
The process to obtain a birth certificate or the equivalent document will depend on your birthplace. According to the U.S. government's official website, the following are the procedures that you’ll have to follow according to your birthplace.
People born in the United States
You can use the list above to find the best way to contact the office of vital records of your state of birth. Once you reach them, you can ask about the process to request copies and instructions to make the corresponding payment. Some offices offer expedited service if you need a copy of your birth certificate as soon as possible.
Children of American parents born abroad
The Consular Report of Birth Abroad is the equivalent document to an American birth certificate for people born abroad to American citizens. Your parents will have to have notified the nearest consulate to obtain a copy of said document. If they didn’t register your birth at the embassy or consulate, they’ll have to file for your citizenship.
Keep in mind: Depending on your country of birth, the nation's civil registry may have a record of your birth and be able to send you a copy of your birth certificate. If you were born on an American military base abroad, you can contact the corresponding Army branch.
Born abroad and adopted by Americans
Children born abroad who were adopted by American citizens aren’t issued an American birth certificate. In these cases, your country of origin will have issued this certificate. If you need to request a copy of this document, we recommend that you contact the country 's local consulate or embassy. You can also obtain a certified English translation of your birth certificate if the original wasn’t written in English.
Keep in mind: People born abroad and adopted by Americans must have their naturalization or citizenship card. If you need a copy of this document, you’ll have to file an N-565. This can be done online by clicking the previous link.
How can I get a birth certificate online?
There are plenty of online service providers that can help you request a certified copy of your birth certificate. Vitalchek is the largest and most well-known. They’re government-approved and operate in all 50 states of the U.S.
How long does it take to get an American birth certificate?
Processing times depend on each state, but normally it takes 4-8 weeks to receive a certified copy of a birth certificate. A few online services, such as Vitalchek, offer expedited services for an additional fee.
How can I request a birth certificate from another state?
Most state vital records offices accept requests by mail. You’ll have to send the required information, documents, and forms along with a check for the processing fee. Once your request has been processed, they’ll send you a certified copy by mail. Another option is to use an online service which will send your document to any address within the United States.
How can I use an American birth certificate abroad?
The United States is a signatory of the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961. This means that official documents have to be apostilled in order to be accepted in other participating countries. The Department of State is responsible for apostilles in the United States, so we recommend that you contact their office in your state of residency to complete a procedure abroad.
Make sure you have a birth certificate at all times!
An American birth certificate isn’t something you use every day, but it’s important that you always have one on hand! If you don’t have a certified copy, we hope you’ll follow the recommendations above to get one in case of emergency. If you already have one, keep in mind that it’s a very important document and should always be kept in a safe place.If you have any other questions about obtaining a birth certificate or any other vital record in the United States, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our team works every day to help our community, and we’ll be glad to assist you.