Getting a copy of your Russian birth certificate can be a complex and frustrating undertaking, especially if you are located outside the geographical boundaries of Russia. Depending on where you're located, you may be able to procure an official copy at a local government clerk's office. Alternatively, you may need to retain the services of a Russian attorney or a U.S. law firm with a presence in Russia.
Visit the Russian City Clerk's Office
If you are already in Russia or planning to visit the country, the most direct and immediate way to procure a copy of your Russian birth certificate is to visit the local Bureau of Acts of Civil Status. This is a type of city clerk's office, also referred to as ZAGS. This office is the local repository for all archived official documents, such as birth certificates and marriage licenses.
To begin a birth certificate search at ZAGS, you need to provide the officials there with the name you were assigned at birth. If your name has been changed, as often is the case with children adopted soon after birth or early in life, then your birth name will likely be crossed out in the official records, and the new name written in its place.
Request the clerk's office personnel to issue you a new birth certificate under your current name or one that reflects the fact of your name change. They should be able to complete this task fairly quickly, although you likely will have to wait for it.
Retain the Services of a Russian Attorney
If you are located outside of Russia, you will need to locate and retain the services of a Russian attorney or a law firm with a presence in Russia who can do the local work on your behalf. Start your efforts by first contacting the Russian consulate in the city nearest your location in the United States. Alternatively, you can use an online directory to search for Russian attorneys located near you.
Of course, you will be required to pay for the services of your Russian attorney. Some firms will ask for a retainer up front, before beginning work on your request. Others may be willing to invoice you after the fact for their time and expenses. In either event, ask for a retainer agreement or letter of representation that sets forth the basis of fees and how and when payment will be due.
Execute a Power of Attorney
In order to authorize the Russian attorney to act on your behalf, you will need to execute a power of attorney form, or POA, to grant the attorney the power to act on your behalf and obtain the necessary documents.
Do not sign the POA until you are in the presence of a notary public who will notarize your signature. The notary should also affix an official seal to formally recognize your signature and attest that other formalities have been executed. Once this is done, you can send the POA back to your attorney in Russia.
Also, make sure that your attorney has all the information necessary to carry out your instructions to successfully obtain an official copy of your birth certificate. Necessary information includes:
- Designation numbers for any official Russian documentation you may currently possess, such as a passport.
- Your date and place of birth.
- Names of your birth (biological) parents.
- Your current address.
Include all relevant information concerning your adoption, if applicable, including the names of your adoptive parents and any other information that might assist the attorney in proving the circumstances and fact of your birth in Russia.
After You Get Your Certificate
Immediately upon receipt of your certificate, make a few copies of the document, both front and back. Store the original in a flat, large file folder. Do not fold or bend it. Bending the document may cause the ink to blur or rub off, making the form illegible or obscured at the fold.
Bear in mind that Russian birth certificates may not be accepted by other foreign governments without an appostil stamp on the back. This is a formal government stamp that validates the certificate for use and reliance in foreign countries. The local attorney or city clerk in the ZAGS office should be able to assist you with ensuring your certificate receives this stamp.
- Make a photocopy of the back and the front of your birth certificate as soon as you get it. Do not fold it, as some inks used in Russia rub off very easily. My birth certificate was creased at the place it has the number, and now I no longer know the number of the birth certificate.
Annie Sisk is a freelance writer who lives in upstate New York. She holds a B.A. in Speech from Catawba College and a J.D. from USC. She has written extensively for publications and websites in the business, management and legal fields.