Your official birth certificate is the long-form version, the full-fat, fully detailed document that's safely on file at the locality of your birth. Meanwhile, a short-form birth certificate serves as a notarized doc summarizing the key details of the longer version, useful for basic ID purposes.
Think of the short-form birth certificate as a sort of Cliffs Notes version of the long-form birth certificate. In states that use both formats – and not all states do – the long-form birth certificate is the real deal with all the nitty-gritty, in-depth details. The shorter version is basically a summary certifying that the long-form doc exists. Both types have their pros and cons, and it pays to know each of them, especially before you head down to the passport agency.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Your long-form birth certificate is the bonafide document itself; the short-form version is basically a notarized summary.
The Long-Form Birth Certificate
The full document recording your birth – the one that's on file with the locality where your birth took place – is known as the long-form birth certificate. On this detailed document, you'll find a variety of information, most often including:
- Your first, middle and last name.
- Your gender.
- The year, month, day, hour and minute of your arrival.
- The city and state where you were born.
- Your mother's usual residence at the time of birth.
- Whether your birth was of the single, twin or triplet variety (and, if so, the order in which you were born).
- The name and address of the hospital or facility of your birth.
- A file number from the local department of health.
- The date upon which the certificate was actually filed.
- The nationality of your parents.
- Your parents' names and birthdates.
- The name and signature of the birth attendant, midwife or other persons present at the birth.
Keep in mind, though, that the specific information on the certificate may vary depending on your state of birth. In any case, the long-form document will naturally contain more info than the short-form version. Typically, the actual document is a large paper certificate, about 8.5 by 11 inches in size.
The Short-Form Birth Certificate
A short-form birth certificate is exactly what it sounds like: a shorter version of your birth certificate. This version is a notarized document, which essentially states that the long-form birth certificate exists and is on file with the agency that processed your birth record, such as the county recorder's office. It offers the most essential birth-related details and may also include a file number associated with the original, long-form birth certificate
The short-form document often lacks information about the hospital or facility of your birth, the nationality and birthdates of your parents, and the signatures of those present at the birth, among other info. Like the long-form doc, the exact details on the short-form certificate vary by state.
In contrast to the physically larger long-form version, the short-form certificate is (quite fittingly) usually about half the size or smaller.
Which Certificate Do I Need?
When you submit an application for a United States passport, you'll need an original or certified copy of your long-form birth certificate – the short version won't cut it. Likewise, you'll need the longer document if you're applying for dual citizenship or undergoing the first steps of an adoption process. If someone is requesting your official birth certificate, chances are the long-form will be required.
Often, the short-form birth certificate is acceptable as proof of identity regarding day-to-day citizenship matters, making it potentially viable for driver's license and state ID card applications, for example. But rules may vary depending on the state, governing body or agency.
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