The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico is an unusual part of the United States. Her citizens are definitely American, but Puerto Rico is not a state with voting rights. Instead, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth. Officially, it is known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and is an unincorporated territory of the United States. This means that her citizens are both American and Puerto Rican.
This makes for an interesting mix of North American and Latino cultures. Sadly, Puerto Ricans are not full American citizens imbued with all of the rights and responsibilities of United States citizens, because Puerto Rico is not a state. Its citizens don't have elected Congressional representation and can't vote in the general presidential election.
Although the residents of Puerto Rico do not live on the U.S. mainland – like the residents of other U.S. territories around the world, such as Guam and the U. S. Virgin Islands, for example – they enjoy U. S. citizenship. And when the time comes to prove their American citizenship with a copy of a Puerto Rico birth certificate, to get a passport, for example, Puerto Ricans have several options.
Birth Certificate Application on Puerto Rico
Puerto Ricans living on the island of Puerto Rico should definitely visit their local Puerto Rico Department of Vital Records to obtain a copy of their Puerto Rico birth certificate. The central office is located in San Juan, but there are many offices throughout the island. It is wise to call the office first to learn about their hours, what documentation you should bring with you and the methods and amount of payment they will accept.
Puerto Rican Birth Certificate By Mail
The most convenient option for Puerto Ricans living off-island is to use the mail-in service. All mail-in applications must include a completed and signed application for a birth certificate and a photocopy of a valid photo ID. Acceptable forms of ID include:
- Driver’s license.
- State-issued or federal-issued ID card.
- Identification card from a valid welfare program, such as food stamps.
- Veteran’s Administration ID.
Please note, all forms of identification are subject to approval.
All mail-in applications, except for those from veterans, should be accompanied with a postal money order in the amount of $5 made payable to the Secretario de Hacienda de Puerto Rico. (Each additional copy costs $4.) Send the application and money order, together with a clearly self-addressed, stamped envelope to:
Department of Health Demographic Registry
P. O. Box 11854
San Juan, PR 00917.
Requests typically take at least six weeks to process and to be returned to the applicant.
Birth Certificate for Births Occurring Prior to 1931
The central registry in San Juan keeps records for births occurring from 1931 to the present. If you need a record of a birth that took place prior to 1931, you will have to go to the local registrant for the place where that birth occurred in order to obtain that birth certificate.
In order to obtain a birth certificate in Puerto Rico, you must be over 18 and an interested party: the registrant, the parents, legal custodian, legal representative or heirs, if so proven by law.
- The only persons who can solicit a birth certificate are the inscribed himself (if he is 18 years of age), or the parents, children or legal representative of the inscribed.
- A rapid request can be made using a prepaid expedited mail service, such as Express Mail, Federal Express, or UPS, to send and to receive. The address if you are using an expedited mail service is: Registro Demográfico, Calle Quisqueya #171 Hato Rey Puerto Rico 00917. For additional information, contact the Mail Department (Sección de Correo) at (787) 767-9120 exts. 2402, 2406 and 2415.
Melissa McCall is an accomplished lawyer, science journalist and legal analyst. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University in 2003 and spent two years as a Judicial Law Clerk, followed by 2 years at a general litigation firm and a brief stint as the Director of Environmental Protection for the Virgin Islands. Since leaving the US Virgin Islands, she has worked as a legal recruiter, legal writer and legal analyst.