Your birth certificate is one of your fundamental identifying documents. It's used as a reference point for acquiring many other forms of ID. But sometimes—whether due to a move, a natural disaster, or just a bad memory—your birth certificate may get lost over the years.
This guide will help you learn what to use your birth certificate for and how to receive a legal copy of the document.
What Is on a Birth Certificate?
Most of the time, your birth certificate is originally created at the hospital, shortly after you're born. It contains much vital information about you, such as:
- Your full name.
- The time and date of your birth.
- The city or county of your birth.
- Your parents' full names, including your mother's maiden name, if applicable.
Some birth certificate forms may also include additional information, such as:
- The birthplaces of your parents.
- Your parents' address(es), occupations, and ethnicities.
- The number of children your parents already have.
Birth Certificate Uses
Since it's an official notation of so much personal information, a birth certificate is often required as a means to legally prove your identity and/or age.
Situations when you'll likely be asked to provide your birth certificate include, but are not limited to:
- Applying for a passport.
- Applying for government benefits.
- Enrolling in some schools.
- Joining the military.
- Claiming pension or insurance benefits.
- Getting your driver's license.
- Getting a replacement Social Security card.
Getting a Replacement Birth Certificate
If you can't find the original, you should be able to get a certified copy of your birth certificate. This process varies depending on the situation surrounding your birth.
Obtaining a copy of your birth certificate is fairly easy for citizens born in the United States.
First, locate the vital records office in the state where you were born. There, you should be able to find your state's specific process on how to get the document, including instructions and information on any applicable fees.
Citizens Born Abroad—Non-Military
If you were born in another country to American parents, you should have a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) issued in your name. This document is created when your parents report your birth to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate office.
Either the person whose birth was recorded by the CRBA or the parent or legal guardian of the child may obtain a reproduction of the document.
To request a copy, you must submit:
- A notarized request including the following information:
- The child's:
- Full name at birth.
- Adoptive names, if applicable.
- Date and place of birth.
- Passport information, if available.
- The parents' full names.
- The serial number of the CRBA form, if known.
- The requester's mailing address, contact number, and signature.
- For legal guardians only: A copy of the court order granting guardianship.
- The child's:
- A copy of the requester's valid identification.
- A $50 check or money order.
- If writing a check, make payable to “Department of State."
Mail the information to:
Department of State
Passport Vital Records Section
44132 Mercure Cir.
P.O. Box 1213
Sterling, VA 20166
Requests that are not notarized or do not include a copy of the requester's valid ID will take longer to process.
You can also request overnight delivery of the copy by including an additional $17.13 with the above documents.
Citizens Born Abroad on a Military Base
The birth of a child to American parents on a military base abroad is typically documented the same way as children born to American parents in a foreign country.
These children often have a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) issued in their name, and can therefore take the same steps explained above to obtain a copy.
If you were born to American parents on a military base abroad and your parents did not file for a CRBA, you can try contacting the following offices for additional information:
- The hospital where the birth took place.
- The base operator.
- The public affairs office of the appropriate military branch.
Children Born Abroad—Adopted by a U.S. Citizen
Whichever country you're born in is responsible for documenting your birth certificate. That includes children who were born overseas and adopted by a U.S. citizen.
If this situation pertains to you, you will not receive a U.S. birth certificate. Instead, you must contact the nearest embassy or consulate for the country of your birth.
If the document is in a language other than English, you may also want to request help from the embassy with translations.
However, if you need a copy of naturalization/citizenship documents, you will have to either reach out to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or:
- Complete an Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (Form N-565).
- The USCIS provides instructions for the application.
- Pay the $555 fee.