How to Get a Copy of Your Birth Certificate

A birth certificate or a certified copy of an original birth certificate is becoming increasingly important as a required form of identification. A birth certificate is required for getting a US passport and is considered valid proof if US citizenship by federal, state and local government agencies. A birth certificate may be required when applying for some jobs and may, in the future, be required when getting or renewing a driver’s license.

A certified copy of a birth certificate has a registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar’s signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office, which must be within 1 year of the person’s date of birth.

How to Get a Certified Birth Certificate

The federal government does not provide copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, death certificates, or any other personal vital records. Copies of birth certificates and other personal vital records can only be obtained from the state or US possession where the documents were originally filed. Most states provide a centralized source from which birth certificates and other vital records can be ordered.

Each state and US possession has its own set of rules and fees for ordering certified birth certificates on other vital records. Rules, ordering instructions and fees for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all US possessions can be found on the Where to Write for Vital Records web page, helpfully maintained by the US Centers for Disease Control.

When ordering, be aware that shortened (abstract) versions of birth certificates offered by some states may not be acceptable for US passport purposes. Be sure to order only the full, certified copy of the original birth certificate bearing the registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar’s signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office.

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