How to Get a Birth Certificate

Three Methods:Getting a Copy of a Birth CertificateGetting a Birth Certificate for an InfantGetting a Birth Certificate after an Adoption

A birth certificate is often needed for satisfying guidelines for proving birth, age, name, parentage and place of birth. Many government entities demand a copy of the birth certificate for their records. Even carrying out simple activities such as signing up for little league or obtaining a passport will require you to have a copy of your birth certificate. Follow the steps outlined in this article to acquire a certificate for yourself or your child.

Method 1
Getting a Copy of a Birth Certificate

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    Use an electronic service. There is a private company called VitalChek that is authorized by the US government to issue copies of vital records. Using the service may be more expensive than obtaining the record directly from the government office, but it is likely to be faster and possibly easier.
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    Know the location of the birth. An official certificate of every birth should be on file in the state where the event occurred. The Federal Government does not maintain files or indexes of these records. These records are filed permanently in a state health or vital statistics office. A list of state health and vital statistics offices can be found here.[1]
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    Find out the requirements and fees. Many states have slightly different procedures for obtaining a replacement birth certificate.
    • There are sometimes different options that you can select. For example, in Alaska you can chose between a regular birth certificate and one that is embellished by the work of a local artist. In Alabama, you have the option of getting either a certified or uncertified birth certificate.
    • Also note that the fees vary from state to state. In Arkansas, the fee for a birth certificate is $12, while in California, the fee for a birth certificate is $25.
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    Find out whether you are eligible to request a copy of an individual's birth certificate. Some states have an “informational” birth certificate with less information, which is available to a wider variety of people. Obtaining a certified birth certificate is usually restricted to the following parties:
    • The person named on the certificate.
    • That person’s mother, father, or legal guardian.
    • The husband or wife of person named on certificate.
    • The son or daughter of person named on certificate.
    • The sister or brother of person named on certificate.
    • The legal representative of an authorized person.
    • Some states also allow for registered genealogy groups or academics to access records.
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    Write to or electronically submit a request to the appropriate state agency. Note that many states do not offer this service online due to the availability of other services such as VitalChek. In a written request provide the following information:
    • Full name of person whose record is requested.
    • Sex.
    • Parents' names, including maiden name of mother.
    • Month, day, and year of birth.
    • Place of birth (city or town, county, and State; and name of hospital, if known).
    • Purpose for which copy is needed.
    • Relationship to person whose record is requested.
    • Day-time telephone number with area code.
    • Also, keep in mind that your state may have further identification requirements. They may require a copy of your social security card or a photo identification card.
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    Wait for your new birth certificate. The waiting time for your new certificate will vary dramatically by state. If you have questions about the waiting time for your state, call the state office and ask.
    • Most state websites will offer an idea of what your waiting time could be.
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    Realize that it may be difficult to find birth records more than 100 years old. Keeping records was not in common practice until the end of the 19th century. Finding a birth certificate for someone who is over 100 years old may be difficult. You can check your individual state’s website for information about how to find these older records.

Method 2
Getting a Birth Certificate for an Infant

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    Fill out the proper forms. At most hospitals, these will be given to you automatically and required to leave. Oh, and you should make sure to already have a name picked out.
    • Get a birth certificate for your baby at the hospital after having your baby there. At most hospitals, it is mandatory that you be given the birth certificate before you leave. If you weren't given one forthright, ask the hospital staff for a birth certificate form before leaving with the baby.
    • If you have already left the hospital, you can receive one online or through the mail. Simply go to the website for the department of health for the state that your baby was born in. Many have a “birth section” that should explain how you can obtain a birth certificate. The website of the CDC has a list of all state health departments ([2] Then, follow the directions to get a certificate online, or find the address and paperwork you need to get a certificate by mail.
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    Complete the forms and return them to the appropriate department.
    • The hospital will usually submit the forms for you. There are no fees due immediately. Make sure to give them your current permanent address, as you will be receiving the official certificate in the mail.
    • If you do not have a name for your baby, you can finish the form later and submit it to your local county health department. Make sure you ask the hospital how long they maintain birth records. You need to choose a name before the hospital throws away the birth record. Hospitals usually keep birth records for at least a year, though some will keep them longer.
    • Keep in mind that your baby will need a birth certificate to travel internationally and receive medical care. It is important to pick out a name as soon as you can. The hospital should also provide forms to request copies of the birth certificate later.
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    Apply for other official documents for your baby. You may also want to obtain a Social Security number for your baby. Some states urge you to apply for your baby's SSN almost immediately.
    • You can get a Social Security Number using the parent's vital information and a certified copy of the hospital's birth record.[3] You can obtain a SSN for a baby before you have received the official birth certificate.
    • The application for the Social Security Card can be found online (
    • Some hospitals will provide Social Security Card application forms on site, but it is not standard practice. Ask if you can start the process there.

Method 3
Getting a Birth Certificate after an Adoption

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    Complete a legal adoption through the court system.
    • When parents offer up their legal rights to their child, the original birth certificate becomes null and void. If you are seeking the original birth certificate, the adopted child may access this after the age of 18.
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    Obtain the birth certificate forms from the court. The judge should usher this process on for you.
    • The forms are typically completed at the same time as the certificate of adoption and honored immediately.
    • In most cases, an amended birth certificate is issued that states the adoptive parents' names rather than the biological parents' names. This serves as the only legitimate birth certificate; the original is rendered illegitimate.[4]
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    Carry out a re-adoption after returning to the United States (if applicable). If your child entered the U.S. with an IR-3 visa (and the adoption was completed overseas), re-adoption is not required by Federal courts. In general, adoptions finalized abroad are recognized and legally binding in the U.S. That said, some individual states require you to "re-adopt." Research the area you live to find out what your state's policy is.[5]
    • A re-adoption makes it easier to obtain a U.S. birth certificate for your child. It also ensures that a certificate will be filed with your municipality's vital records department. A legal name change can also be filed simultaneously. Filing a re-adoption allows you to follow the same processes you would to obtain the birth certificate of your biological child.
    • Once the re-adoption is completed, complete the steps above for obtaining a birth certificate for your child.
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    Find your original birth certificate. If you were adopted but wish to find a copy of your original birth certificate, check the guidelines for the state in which you were born. Some states allow individuals over 18 to obtain these records. Some states allow for birth parents to have their names redacted from the records, so the records will only be partially available.


  • Some online companies will offer to look up and order a birth certificate for you. Some of these sites may charge additional fees for using their service. In most cases, it is easy to obtain the records yourself without the assistance of an outside company.
  • Certified birth certificates with a state seal are considered official documents. Printed certificates (such as the ones they give with the baby's footprints) from the hospital are typically not accepted as being official.

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Categories: Birth Certificates