How To Get a Copy of Your Birth Certificate

It's necessary to have a copy of your birth certificate in many instances.  For example, you'll need to present it to obtain a marriage license, to get a passport and in some states, to get a driver's license.  Fortunately, if you can't locate your original document, it's simple to get a certified copy as substitute. The procedure and requirements vary a bit for each state, but the following is an outline of the basic steps to getting a birth certificate replacement or copy.

  1. Visit the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) web page.  This is part of the Centers for Disease Control website.  It will provide you with basic instructions on how to order copies of birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates.  It also has links to the website for each state for more detailed instructions.  From this page, click on the link for the state in which your birth took place.
  2. Carefully read the instructions.  If necessary, click on the link to the state's website for more information.  In general, most states have records dating back to at least the year 1900.
  3. Determine what you will need.  Not just anyone can get a copy of your birth certificate.  Usually, requests for copies are limited to you, your spouse, children, parents, siblings and/or a legal representative of one of the above.  In order to prove that you are entitled to a copy of a birth certificate, you'll need to prove your identity, most often by providing a copy of your driver's license.  You'll also need to list your full name at birth, your date of birth, sex, county or city of birth, hospital name, full (maiden) name of your mother, full name of your father, your signature (possibly notarized), your mailing address and your daytime phone number.  Once you have assembled all of this information, you're ready for the next step!
  4. Decide how you want to submit your request.  Most states offer the option of requesting a copy by mail, phone or in-person.  No matter which way you submit your request, it will still take about the same amount of time to process it.  Be careful to follow the procedure exactly to ensure that you will receive the document as quickly as possible.  It's especially important to submit any necessary fees only by using the payment methods listed.  Some states will accept personal checks, some will accept cash if the request is submitted in person, and some accept only cashier's checks or money orders.  The fees for birth certificate copies vary by state, but between 10 and 15 dollars is average.  If you need more than one copy, there's usually a discount offered.
  5. Wait for your copy to arrive.  The processing timeis usually between two weeks and 60 days, so if you need it for a specific event - say, to obtain a marriage license - allow plenty of time.  Most states offer an expediting service, but in most cases, this applies only to the mailing time, not the processing time.
  6. In special circumstances. If you are a U.S. citizen but were born overseas, were adopted at birth, or were born on a boat or aircraft, these are considered special circumstances, and different rules will apply.  The NCHS website can guide you through the process.

Remember, submitting incorrect or incomplete information will result in the rejection of your application. Always read the directions for your state carefully and call the toll-free number provided if you have questions.


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