A birth certificate is one of those documents you really should keep in a safe place, but it's notoriously easy to lose track of it. After all, you don't apply for the certificate yourself and you don't need to use it very often. The original document essentially is proof that you exist and contains recorded details such as your name, gender and date of birth as well as your parents' details. If you can't find your original birth certificate, all that's usually required is an online application to the state Bureau of Vital Records.
Prove Your Identity
In most states, you can only get a certified copy – also known as an authorized copy – of a birth certificate if you are the person named on the record or if that person is your minor child. Others can apply for a copy of your birth certificate, but they get an informational copy only, which does not establish your identity. Many states will stamp the copy to make it clear that the informational copy is not an official document.
A certified copy, on the other hand, can be used for legal purposes, such as applying for a driver's license, passport or ID card. It is a legal document that establishes your identity and is accepted by government agencies.
The irony here is that you need to produce a document that proves your identity in order to get a certified copy of the document – your birth certificate – that proves your identity! Before you do anything, make sure you have a copy of a valid photo ID like a state or military identity card. You may be able to apply with a non-photo ID, such as a Social Security card, bank statement or IRS tax return, but it depends on the rules of your state.
Visit the National Center of Health Statistics' Website
The National Center of Health Statistics is a federal agency that collects vital statistics regarding birth and death events at the state level. Visit their web page "Where to Write for Vital Records" and click the link to your state. You'll see a listing for how to get copies of birth certificates in your state and a link to your state's Vital Records Department. Click that link to read up on the application process.
Apply as a Walk-In or by Mail
What happens next depends on where you live. In most states, you have the option of stopping by the Vital Records Bureau as a walk-in and getting a certified copy of your birth certificate within a few minutes – remember to take your ID! Most states will also accept mail applications. You'll need to download and fill out a request form from the state's vital records website and send this with a copy of your ID and the required fee to the specified address.
Fees vary by state but you're generally looking in the region of $5 to $10 per copy, payable by check or money order if you're applying by mail.
Apply Online Through VitalChek
Some states partner with VitalChek, a portal that provides secure online applications for state vital records. You can access the order page through your state's Department of Public Health or directly through VitalChek's website. Follow the links to your state, then input your details (first, middle and last names, date and place of birth) and upload a copy of your identification. You can pay the fee with all major credit cards, including American Express, MasterCard, Discover and Visa.
The application takes less than 10 minutes to fill out. The certified copy normally will be sent to you by mail within a few days.
Read More: How to Apply for a Copy of a Birth Certificate Online
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.