There are a few times in life when furnishing a birth certificate is necessary. When you finally get a driver’s license, need a Social Security card or undertake other services that require proof of your identity, you’ll need to provide a copy of your birth certificate. You may already have a copy somewhere in your files, but if not, you'll have to get one. While there is no truly cost-free way to obtain your birth certificate, you can get it for relatively cheap and nearly hassle free.
Why Birth Certificates Are Important
Your birth certificate serves as official proof of your age and identity. You may be asked to provide a birth certificate if you are applying for a new passport, enrolling in government benefits, joining the military, claiming insurance benefits or getting a replacement for your Social Security card. It’s always a good idea to have a few copies of birth certificates for you and your family members so you'll have easy access to them when needed.
In many cases, you’ll need to obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate, which means getting official copies instead of simply making photo copies.
For Citizens Born in the U.S.
If you were born in the U.S., it’s relatively easy and cost-effective to get a copy of your birth certificate. Start by going to the Centers for Disease Control’s website for vital health records. This site lists the offices to contact to obtain a birth certificate depending on the state where you were born. Click on the appropriate state, and the address of the office will appear.
You can go to the office to request your birth certificate or write and ask them to mail one to you. The cost and procedures vary by state. For example, if you were born in Massachusetts, it costs more to get your birth certificate than if you were born in Florida.
There are also online providers that allow you to order copies of your birth certificate online. These providers may not service all states and may charge fees over and above what you’d pay if you ordered one through a government agency. However, there is the convenience factor of ordering online, especially since it means you may get quicker access to your birth certificate.
For Non-Military Citizens Born Abroad
If you are a U.S. citizen who was born outside of the U.S., the process to get a copy of your birth certificate is slightly different. Your birth certificate, called a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or CRBA, is available at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate office. Alternatively, you might be able to find a copy of your birth certificate at the U.S. Department of State or from the embassy in the country of your birth.
When you request a copy of your birth certificate, you’ll need to submit a notarized request with your full name, your date and place of birth, your parents’ names, your mailing address and a $50 check.
Read More: How to Obtain the Birth Record of a US Citizen Born on a Military Base Abroad
For Citizens Born on a Military Base
If your parents were in the military when you were born, the process to get your birth certificate is similar to that for citizens born abroad. Most of the time, you will be issued a CRBA at birth.
If for some reason you were not issued a CRBA, you can contact the hospital where you were born, the military base operator or the public affairs office for the appropriate military branch. They should be able to help you obtain a copy of your birth certificate.
For Adopted Children Born Abroad
If you were born elsewhere and were adopted by American parents, you will need to contact the country of your birth to obtain a copy of your birth certificate. This is because only the country of your birth and citizenship has a record of your birth certificate.
While there is no true way to get copies of your birth certificate for free, you can get them when you need them at a relatively low price. To keep the cost down, order several at once so you don’t need to stress or rush-order one the next time you need proof of identity.
- Be persistent, if you cannot find your birth certificate at one place, move to another. Be prepared to pay a small fee.
- Be careful when dealing with online sites. They could be a venue to get personal information.
Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.