While many countries have birth certificate naming rules, the United States does not have a centralized system. This means that birth names and registration rules will vary slightly from state to state, and you will have to check individual state requirements to get an exact idea of what you have to do. Birth certificates and other certified vital records are handled on a state level, and individual state regulations and laws range from specific rules (Such as names cannot be longer than 40 characters) to no laws at all.
What is a Birth Certificate?
A birth certificate is the first legal document assigned to a person. An estimated 10,800 people are born in the United States every day, and the vital records office works to issue birth certificates to each of them. U.S. birth certificates are registered with vital statistics, tax, military, and census purposes and are crucial to proving the child’s identification, U.S. citizenship, and parentage – giving that child access to the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen.
Guidelines for Birth Certificates
There is no national or federal registry of birth records in the United States. Each state issues its own birth certificates, which they report to the federal government once per year. In most cases, data is collected on a federal or municipal level, and actual guidelines can vary considerably from area to area. However, most birth certificates consist of the U.S. Standard Certificate of Live Birth. This 58-question document does not include naming rules.
Most states will have specific rules regarding name length, type, and options. For example, in Massachusetts, the first name cannot be longer than 40 characters. Most states also ban the inclusion of special characters or numbers, but some states make exceptions. Some states also ban religious figures, foreign characters, trademarks, asterisks, and diacritical marks. Others have no regulations at all.
Some states also regulate the child’s last name. For example, most states mandate that the child have two names, typically the last name of the mother if she is unmarried and the last name of the father if married. Some states allow unmarried mothers to choose her or the father’s name. States including Delaware, Montana, and Maryland have no restriction how you register the last name in the birth record, allowing you to give the child a new surname.
How can you tell what is and is not allowed in your area? Some regulations are actually only county wide. Contact the vital records office or city hall in your area for a full list of baby name rules in your area.
How Long Do You Have to Register a Baby’s Name?
While most states require that you register a baby’s birth within 3-21 days of birth, parents have up to one year to register a name on the birth certificate. This means that the original copy of the birth certificate may not have a name. In some cases, parents will forget or not follow through on this step, in which case an adult may not have a name on their birth certificate. You should receive the certified birth certificate from the hospital report of birth within three weeks of the birth. You should retain a copy for future use. However, you can always order a birth certificate replacement online at VitalRecordsOnline if you lose your copy or need additional certified copies for legislation purposes.
Do Both Parents Have to Be on the Birth Certificate?
While most birth certificates will include the father and the mother, it is optional. If the father or mother do not wish to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, the father’s name will not be on the certificate. This can be updated or changed at any time for a fee by requesting an original certified copy of the birth certificate and sending a request of change to your local vital statistics office. You cannot change the name on online birth certificates without going through the Vital Records office directly.
What Else Should You Know?
If you’re about to have a baby, it’s always a good idea to connect with the local vital records office to determine if there are rules regarding names in your area. Most ban impractical (very long), offensive, or difficult to print (pictograms, special characters) names, which would limit the child’s ability to be placed into systems properly. Some states also ban the use of numbers in names. Others have no birth certificate naming rules at all.
While it’s always a good idea to be aware of birth certificate naming rules, you can always correct mistakes. To do so, you simply need an original copy of the birth certificate and a birth certificate correction form as supplied by your local Vital Records office.