There are situations where you need to prove your identity, such as marriage, registering for school or getting a passport or a driver’s license. In those instances, you may need to provide an official birth certificate. When asked to provide your birth certificate, it’s important to present the actual birth certificate and not a certificate of live birth. While they sound similar, they are actually two completely different documents.
What Is a Certificate of Live Birth?
A certificate of live birth is the document completed by hospital staff after a baby is born. A live birth certificate contains information such as:
- The baby’s name, sex and date of birth.
- The baby’s weight, height and other vital statistics.
- If the birth was a single, twin or multiple.
- Information on the health of the newborn, including congenital anomalies and abnormal conditions.
- The names of the parents, along with their address, level of education and demographic information.
- Any medical and health information about the pregnancy and delivery.
- Names of the hospital and delivering doctors.
The certificate of live birth is filled out by the parents, certified by a hospital attendant and sent to the state's Office of Vital Statistics or registrar to produce the official birth certificate. It is used mainly for data entry purposes, though many parents hold on to this document as a keepsake of their child’s birth.
Read More: How to Fill Out a Birth Certificate
What Is a Birth Certificate?
A birth certificate is the official record of your birth that uses information provided on the certificate of live birth. It is issued on official state letterhead and certified with the state seal and signature of the registrar.
An official birth certificate typically includes:
- The baby's full name, sex and race.
- The time and date of birth.
- The names, birthdays and birthplaces of the parents.
- Place of birth and delivering doctors.
Since birth certificates are issued by states and are not governed at the federal level, states can require more or less information to be included. Even if a birth certificate is incomplete, it is still a valid legal document once issued by the state.
When a Birth Certificate Is Needed
You may run across many instances in your life when a birth certificate is required. An official copy of your birth certificate may be required when you:
- Apply for a passport, driver’s license or other identification issued by the government.
- Register yourself or your child for school.
- Get married.
- Sign up a child for sports.
- Apply for certain jobs.
Your birth certificate should always be kept in a safe place so you can access it when needed. You can order official copies from your state registrar’s office if you don’t have one or need additional copies.
Ordering a Birth Certificate
Since birth certificates are commonly needed, getting a certified copy is generally easy to do. You must make the request in the state where the birth certificate was issued, not where you currently live.
Each state has its own requirements for obtaining certified copies of birth certificates. In most states, you can make a request online through the state's registrar or Office of Vital Statistics. You can also order a copy via mail, telephone or in person.
In addition to submitting the requested information, such as your full name and date of birth, you will have to pay a fee to get a copy of your birth certificate. This fee varies by state. It’s a good idea to order several copies of a birth certificate so that you have extras available in case you need to submit more than one, or if one of the agencies who requires it does not return it to you.
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.