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Obtaining a Birth Certificate from Vital Records Office

Baby Feet on Birth Certificate por Katelyn Kenderdine

A certified birth certificate is one of the most commonly used documents to prove U.S. citizenship when applying for a passport. If you have lost yours or your copy does not have the raised seal, you can follow the instructions below for obtaining a birth certificate.

In the United States, State laws require birth certificates to be completed for all births, and Federal law mandates national collection and publication of births and other vital statistics data. The National Vital Statistics System, the Federal compilation of this data, is the result of the cooperation between the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the States to provide access to statistical information from birth certificates.

An official certificate of every birth, death, marriage, and divorce should be on file in the locality where the event occurred. The Federal Government does not maintain files or indexes of these records. These records are filed permanently in a State vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office.

To obtain a certified copy of any of the certificates, write or go to the vital records office in the State or area where the event occurred. Addresses and fees are given for each event in the State or area concerned. Processing times for most states is 10-15 business days or more. Some offer expedited service.

For most states, the fastest way to get a copy of a birth record is to apply for a birth certificate through Vital Check. While processing times vary from state to state, you can get a birth certificate from most states within 1 to 5 business days by express delivery.

To ensure that you receive an accurate record for your request and that your request is filled expeditiously, please follow the steps outlined below for the information in which you are interested:

For all requests make check or money order payable to the identified office, in the correct amount for the number of copies requested. Sending cash is not recommended because the office cannot refund cash lost in transit.

Because all fees are subject to change, a telephone number has been included in the information for each State for use in verifying the current fee.

States have provided their home page address for obtaining current information.

Type or print all names and addresses in the letter.

Give the following facts when writing for birth or death records:

  • Full name of person whose record is requested.
  • Gender.
  • Parents' names, including maiden name of mother.
  • Month, day, and year of birth or death.
  • Place of birth or death (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.

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About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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