What Is a Birth Certificate?

A birth certificate is a document certifying the circumstances (time, date, location, parentage) of your birth. It is recorded and kept by the United States Department of Health. This document proves your age, your U.S. citizenship, and your parentage.

  1. Home
  2. Blog
  3. Birth Certificate
  4. What Is a Birth Certificate?
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. It is extremely useful in many areas of life, including schooling, work, and travel. It also proves your identity for tax and record-keeping purposes. Unfortunately, many Americans have lost or never retained a copy of their birth certificate, either by accident, loss during a move, or simply not realizing that it was important. However, you can order a birth certificate online.

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 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. Therefore, it is a primary form of identity required 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 with 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 greatly 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 and the recipient’s signature. It will also be on very heavy paper and include the authorizing agency.

What’s the Difference Between a Certified and an 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 thousands of different formats. These typically include your full name, date of birth, time of birth, and likely your place of birth. The 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 registrar’s signature with the date filed at the registrar’s office, which must be within one 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 the 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 full 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 also 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 Online?

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. In contrast, if you are under 21, do not have a government-issued photo ID, or do not have other proof of identity, your parents can submit the birth certificate request form on your behalf.

To expedite the process and ensure timely receipt of your certified birth certificate, you can order your birth certificate online with VRO.