Your birth certificate is usually your very first legal document, and you are too young when you get it to stash it away safely. Assuming a parent safeguards the original, certified birth certificate, isn't that good enough for any purpose? It is not sufficient to establish your birth in some foreign countries, and in those countries you may need to get it authenticated. Here's how.
Why Authenticate Your Birth Certificate?
A certified birth certificate works for just about any purpose within the borders of the United States. But if you need a birth certificate because you are getting married overseas or have some other legal business in another country, you will need something more, a certificate of authentication or an apostille.
The U.S. Department of State issues both of these documents. Whether you need an Authentication Certificate or an apostille depends on the country in which the document will be used. You'll need an Authentication Certificate for a birth certificate you intend to use in countries that are not parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. On the other hand, you'll need an Apostille Certificate for use in countries that are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention.
Read More: How to Read a Birth Certificate
How to Get an Authentication Certificate?
Go to the website of the U.S. State Department regarding authentication certificate requests and you'll find a fillable form DS-4194. You'll need to fill it out, including specifying the country it is for. For birth certificates and other state or local documents, you must also enclose an original copy of the certificate with the raised or sealed stamp of the court or Department of Records. It should also be certified by the Secretary of State.
You can deliver the application in three different ways. You can mail these documents, together with the fee, to Office of Authentications U.S. Department of State CA/PPT/S/TO/AUT, 44132 Mercure Cir, P.O. Box 1206 Sterling, VA 20166-1206. Include a prepaid, self-addressed envelope for the State Department to use when returning the document. It will take about 12 days to receive the authentication certificate. Don't consider using Federal Express Ground or Home for the return of your documents. The Federal Express Company does not accept them from the DOS office.
Alternatively, you can call the office and make an appointment to get the certificate of authentication done in person if it is urgent or an emergency. What constitutes urgent? Serious illness, injury, or death of individual or family member, or proof of travel within 24 to 48 hours of submission will do the trick. But other urgent/emergency reasons exist as well for expediting the document request.
Finally, you can just drop off the package between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. You'll need to pick up between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on the scheduled pick up day (two to three days later) with the slip you are given when you drop off. You'll also need a photo ID if you are paying with a credit card.
Authenticate a birth certificate for use in foreign countries by sending a Request of Authentication Service to the U.S State Department, along with the original document certified by the Secretary of State from the state of recording, and the fee.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.