If you are planning a trip outside the United States and will be getting a passport for the first time you will need an official copy of your birth certificate. For people born in California, its best to apply to get a certified copy of a California birth certificate as soon as possible because the average processing time is 12 weeks according to the California Department of Public Health. California issues two kinds of copies, authorized and informational. By default you will be sent an authorized copy (the official version) unless you specifically ask for an informational copy which is not valid as identification. In California, if you choose to go through the Office of Vital Records, a certified birth certificate copy can only be obtained by mail. If you wish to obtain a birth certificate copy more quickly, you can contact the Country Recorder's Office in the county of birth to apply in person.
Determine if you are eligible to get a particular birth certificate. Normally a person can apply for a copy of an authorized birth certificate for themselves or an immediate family member. A complete list of eligible applicants is available on the application website (below).
Go to the California Department of Public Health website (see the link at the end of this article) and check the current processing times. If the current processing times do not meet your scheduling needs, visit the appropriate County Recorder's Office website and follow county specific instructions for applying in person.
Download the information pamphlet for applying for copies of birth certificates and the application form if you wish to proceed through the Office of Vital Records. Both are in PDF format, so you will need to have Adobe Acrobat.
Complete the application form. You must also complete a sworn statement that you are entitled to get an authorized copy of a California birth certificate and have this notarized. This is not necessary if you wish to obtain an informational copy only. The form for this is included with the application.
Include a check or money order for $14.00 payable to the Office of Vital Records. Do not send cash. Mail the application, notarized statement, and check or money order to:
Office of Vital Records MS 5103 P.O. Box 997410 Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
When you get the authorized copy of your birth certificate keep it in a safe deposit box or other safe place. If it is lost or damaged, you will have to go through the whole process again to get another copy.