Getting an original birth certificate can take anywhere from six weeks to a few hours, depending on the state which maintains the birth certificate and the type of certificate format you require. If you need one quickly, find out what your options are and the associated fees.
A birth certificate is an important piece of identification, often required to get a driver’s license, apply to school or get a passport. The fastest way to get a birth certificate is usually through the department of health or the office of vital records in the state where you were born. Not surprisingly, of course, the fastest way to get a birth certificate is not always the most convenient, or the cheapest.
Finding the Office of Vital Statistics
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has an online directory of the center of vital statistics for each state (see Resources). Select your state and then follow the information in the Birth section.
Where birth certificates are available from the state government, you will find the address, telephone number and website link, as well as information on the fee and what documentation is required. In some states, like Vermont, you can get birth certificates only from the town or city clerk in the municipality where the birth occurred. If for some reason you are unable to find the information you need here, search your state's website or telephone directory for the office of vital statistics or department of health.
What You Need
To ensure there are no delays in getting your birth certificate, make sure you have everything you need before making your request. In most states, anyone can get an unofficial copy of a birth certificate because they are deemed to be public records. If you want to use a birth certificate for identification purposes, like applying for a passport, you need an authorized copy, which may also be called a certified copy. An authorized birth certificate can be obtained only by the person named in the birth certificate or by a legal parent or guardian.
The fee for an authorized birth certificate varies by state and generally ranges between $9 and $25, usually payable by check or money order if you are applying by mail. In California, for example, to get an authorized copy of a birth certificate, you will need to fill out an application and a sworn statement. The sworn statement must be notarized before you send it in, or your application will be rejected.
How to Get It Fast, Faster, Fastest
There are usually three ways to get a birth certificate: by mail, online or in-person. In North Carolina, as an example, the waiting period for a birth certificate by mail is about five weeks. However, if you pay a fee of $15, you can have it sent within three to five business days. For another $20, the vital records office will use expedited shipping rather than regular mail to get it to you even faster.
Getting a birth certificate online is also very fast – however, this may not be available in all states. Birth certificates from many states, including North Carolina, Michigan and Alabama, can be ordered from VitalChek.com, the company that issues and stores public records for many states.
For the absolute fastest service in North Carolina as well as many other states, go directly to the office that issues the birth certificates – either at the state, county or city – and get the birth certificate handed to you the same day, provided you pay the additional fee.
Some online companies offer to send you birth certificates. Before using such a service, ensure that the fee is appropriate and that the document you receive is really what you need. For example, if you need a notarized sworn statement to get an authorized copy of your birth certificate from your state, it's highly unlikely that an online company can get you a legitimate document without that sworn statement.
- California Department of Public Health: Obtaining Certified Copies of Birth & Death Records
- North Carolina: Order a Certificate
- VitalChek: North Carolina Vital Records Agency Information
- VitalChek: Alabama Vital Records Agency Information
- VitalCheck: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Agency Information
- Vermont Health Statistics
- CDC National Center for Health Statistics: Where to Write for Vital Records