What is a Birth Certificate?
If you were born in the United States, chances are high that you have a U.S. birth certificate. This record of birth proves when and where you were born and is extremely useful in many areas of life including schooling, work, travel, and proving your identity for tax and record keeping purposes. Unfortunately, many Americans have lost or never retained a copy of their birth certificate, either through accident, loss during a move, or simply not realizing that it was important.
If you need your birth certificate for any reason, you likely have a lot of questions such as “what is a birth certificate?”, “what is it used for?”, and “what does it look like?”. We’ll answer all of those questions and more so that you can understand the value of keeping a copy of your birth certificate on hand and how to replace it.
What is a Birth Certificate?
A birth certificate is a document certifying the circumstances (time, date, location, parentage) of your birth, which is then recorded and kept by the U.S. Department of Health. This document proves your age, your U.S. citizenship, and your parentage.
What is a Birth Certificate Used For?
In most cases, your birth certificate will be required in any instance where you must prove your place of birth, your citizenship, your age, or your identity. In most cases, it is a primary form of identity. You will need it to:
- Replace your social security card
- Apply for a driver’s license
- Apply for a passport
- Attend sports in school
- Attend some schools and higher education
- Apply for some benefits
- Prove your citizenship
- Prove your relationship to parents or children
In most cases, you need a copy of your birth certificate when applying for any identifying documents.
What Does a Birth Certificate Look Like?
Birth certificates can vary a great deal in appearance depending on the recipient’s state of birth, age, and the issuing body. However, an authentic document will typically display a raised or embossed seal, the signature of the recipient, and will be on very heavy paper.
What’s the Difference between a Certified and Informative Birth Certificate?
The United States is home to more than 14,000 types of birth certificates, many of which are informative only. An informative or short-form birth certificate includes any of thousands of different formats which typically include your full name, date of birth, and likely your place of birth. Hospital issued short-form birth certificates may include your footprints.
A Certified birth certificate features a registrar’s seal, which is raised, embossed, impressed, or multicolored. It also contains the registrars signature with the date filed at the registrar’s office, which must be within 1 year of birth.
If you are using your birth certificate to apply for a government ID such as a passport, it will have to be a certified copy. As of 2011, this also means that your birth certificate must include the full names of the applicant’s parents. If your original copy of your birth certificate does not contain your parents’ full names, you will have to order a replacement birth certificate online with their names.
What If I Was Born Outside the United States to U.S. Parents?
If you were born outside of the United States, you cannot get a U.S. birth certificate. However, you can request a copy of your Consular Report of Birth Abroad. Providing your parents registered your birth with their local consulate, you can simply contact the Department of State to request a copy. You will have to provide your photo ID with the request.
You can mail your request to the U.S. Department of State with a check or money order to the value of $50:
U.S. Department of State
Passport Vital Records Section
44132 Mercure Cir.
PO Box 1213
Sterling, VA 20166-1213
How Can I Order a Birth Certificate?
If you were born in the United States and are over the age of 21, you can easily order a replacement birth certificate online. You will need a photocopy of your government issued photo ID to make the request. If you are under 21, do not have a government issued photo ID, or do not have other proofs of identity, you can have your parents submit the birth certificate request form on your behalf.
You can order your birth certificate online at VitalRecordsOnline to greatly speed up the process and ensure that you get your certified birth certificate in time.